James Stewart stars as a railroad man hired to secretly carry a payroll despite his suspected connections to outlaws
Bogart is a man on the run and Lauren Bacall his saviour in this tense and stylishly atmospheric film noir thriller
Dark Passage was Bogart and Bacall's third feature as a couple following on from the successes of To Have And Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946). Billed as a compelling romance, Dark Passage is, in fact, a very different movie. Firmly in the tradition of late 40s film noir, it is primarily the tale of escaped prisoner Vincent Parry (Bogart) and his bid to clear his name and find out who framed him for the murder of his wife. Bacall plays his independent and wilful rescuer Irene, who hides him from his pursuers, nurses him when he undergoes plastic surgery to change his identity, and falls for him along the way.
It's a dark, surreal and slightly implausible tale. An unusual vehicle for such a star as Bogart - he doesn't show his face until at least halfway through the film. The first third makes inventive use of first-person camera technique, never showing the actor's infamous face. For much of the second third, he appears mute and in bandages after having undergone the quickest and most effective facelift in history. Much more successful, technically, than the much cited earlier attempt to introduce subjective camera into film, 1947's Chandler adaptation Lady In The Lake, it's an intriguing device which adds to the already tense atmosphere and sense of growing paranoia as Parry is tracked down by police and other foes.
The film also benefits from its suitably gothic location of San Francisco and some wonderfully oddball supporting characters such as Agnes Moorehead's psychotically jealous Madge and Tom D'Andrea's lonely cabby. However, it never quite hits the high notes and is rather slowly paced in parts and lacks the fiery, smart dialogue from other Bogart/Bacall vehicles.
Bogart's Parry sure is a guy with plenty of trouble and Bacall provides intelligent and gutsy succour, but this competent and interesting thriller just never quite makes it to classic status.
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