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Dark Passage (DVD, 2006) Reviews

Dark Passage (DVD, 2006)

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The Man With Bogart's Face: Dark Passage (1947)

Oct 25, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Bogart and Bacall, Agnes Moorhead

Cons:Story, Direction

The Bottom Line: Dark Passage, a third pairing between Bogart and Bacall, gets derailed by a complicated story and gimmicky direction. For fans only.


I Am A Camera: Dark Passage (1947)

Directed by Delmer Daves, the noir thriller Dark Passage stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in their third pairing out of the four they would ultimately do.

Dark Passage, in the time honored film noir tradition, concerns a man whom fate is stalking. Wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, Bogart cleverly escapes prison and begins searching for the real killer.

You’ve heard the old cliche that if you put ten monkeys in a room with typewriters they’ll eventually come up with something - maybe Shakespeare - and Dark Passage is proof that this assertion has some merit, in this case they came up with something but it ain‘t Shakespeare. Delmer Daves’ script makes little sense and relies on a gimmick, lots of coincidences, but is finally just not all that interesting.

Now, I’ll be among the first to admit that logic is not necessarily film noir’s strong suit, citing The Big Sleep as evidence that you don’t need a logical story progression to make a good film, but – that movie was fun, and the dialog with its incessant undercurrent of sex made up for any limitations in logic of the story. Folks, I’m here to tell you Dark Passage is no “Big Sleep.”

An alternate title for this movie could be The Man With Bogart’s Face, as the first act of the film uses the camera as a stand-in for the actor, the supporting actors emoting into the face of it. This technique has hardly ever come off, and here it’s no different.

The subjective point of view is used to explain how Bogart came to look like … Bogart. That’s right, he first looked like someone else, so we’re told, escaped prison, had numerous adventures, and then a hot tip from a cabby led him to the finest plastic surgeon in San Francisco, who just happened to make him look like Humphrey Bogart. The surgeon quips, "If a man like me didn't like a fellow, he could surely fix him up for life. Make him look like a bulldog, or a monkey." Which makes me wonder if Bogey felt he got his money’s worth, or not? Anyway, this and the attendant circumstances take around the first half of the movie. Then of course Bogey has to find who framed him; circumstances pile on top of circumstances, coincidences abound, and so forth.

An interesting aspect of Dark Passage - it occurred at the height of Bogart’s career, where he had some say of what he wanted to appear in. Apparently he was taken with the story and bold technique of using the camera as protagonist, however, as good an actor as he was, Bogey was probably not the best judge of vehicles that he should star in.

The supporting cast tries valiantly, with a show stopping turn by Agnes Moorhead, who should have had more parts, based on her bravura “evil harpy” characterization. Lauren Bacall, of course, did a good job, as did Bogart, but the story itself did not have enough gas to make it through the final reel, sputtering to a halt somewhere between the cliches.

The Warner Bros DVD contains a well preserved version of the 106 minute Black and White movie in full screen 1.33:1 theatrical format. Extras include a making of featurette, a film trailer that‘s been used in several Bogart DVDs, subtitles, and a Bugs Bunny cartoon, entitled “Slick Hare.”

Dark Passage is recommended for die hard Bogart and Bacall fans and film noir fans in general, but be advised it comes across as dated and gimmicky. Better movies by the two are -

To Have and Have Not
The Big Sleep
Key Largo

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