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USA 1947
Directed by
Delmer Daves
106 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Dark Passage

Delmer Daves is very much your classic studio era jack-of-all-trades  - variously as an actor, screenwriter producer and director he was associated with a raft of films during the 30s, 40s, 50s and into the 60s.

With Dark Passage he wears the hats of both writer and director, neither one with great distinction. Humphrey Bogart plays Vincent Parry, an innocent man convicted of murdering his wife who escapes from San Quentin and tries to clear his name with the  the help of a wealthy young woman, Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall).

For the first half-hour Daves adopts the unusual approach of having everything (or at least nearly everything) depicted from the point of view of Bogey’s unseen narrator at technique used a year earlier in Robert Montgomery’s Lady In The Lake (which I haven’t seen but apparently it was not as well realized). After the reason for this is formally justified and a bizarre 3AM visit to a defrocked plastic surgeon, Bogey spends the next half hour wrapped up like The Invisible Man before appearing in all his glory and making rapid headway with the remarkably attractive Bacall. The number of  flights of fancy  required to get this far is quite extraordinary.

The last 45 minutes of the film takes a somewhat different course to what one might expect with Bogart’s character, who at one stage is described as being “dumb”, instead of vindicating himself and bringing the real culprits to justice as Bogey usually did, getting himself into deeper and deeper waters before ending with a de rigeur romantic ending.

Although Daves dishes all this up with workman-like efficiency and there is some nice location photography of 1940s San Francisco, dramatically the film lacks credibility and one is probably more intrigued by the film’s histrionic excesses, exemplified by Agnes Moorehead as Irene’s predatory friend, than anything positive on offer. Although watchable for Bogey and Bacall it is the weakest of the four films that they made together.




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