Dark Passage

April 24, 2012

Vincent Parry is on the lam after escaping from San Quentin where he was doing time for the murder of his wife.  Irene Jensen knows he didn’t do it, just as her father didn’t kill his wife, and she just happens to drive by during his escape from prison.  They become close.  He gets his face rearranged.  He goes to her house to recuperate.

The doc says he has to sleep on his back, with his arms tied to the bed to make certain he doesn’t turn over.  Good morning, Vince. Guess you’re feeling like you’d like to be untied now.


In Lonely Places

July 20, 2011

In a Lonely Place, is a dark thriller about a romance between two people who aren’t plain Joe and Jane.  Each comes from his and her own lonely place.  The find love together, but fate does them in.  He is suspected of murdering a young hat check girl, and his volatile temper and slightly paranoid personality make his new lover suspicious that perhaps, maybe, he did  do it.  She wants to marry him, but he scares her, and we really can’t blame her for feeling that way, but he’s innocent, of the murder at least.

At one point in the film, he, a screen writer, tells her that a good love scene isn’t filled with people telling one another how much they love – you should learn that by watching them.  That’s this film:  it’s a remarkably sensitive and well characterized love story… and there’s that murder and suspicion that turn it towards noir.  Some movies that are considered noir, e.g. Gilda, have a happy ending.  This film borders on noir, and finishes in a very lonely place, where only desolation and murder happen.

Bogart and Grahame are fabulous together.  I’m so used to seeing her play molls, it was a pleasure to see what else she could do.  Here they are at their happiest, before the inevitable fall.

Dixon is done in by fate, the Law, and his own weaknesses.   Earlier, he muses on where in his script to place a wonderful line he’s thought up:

I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me, I lived a few weeks while she loved me.

The film has great lines, and isn’t afraid of poetry:  Shakespeare’s 29th sonnet figures in the action as well.  Poetry won’t save them:  Here Dixon gets ready to step out into the night, and back to that lonely place.

That redeeming phone call came a day too late…

Sing it, sister!

Rogues Gallery

August 13, 2010


Some movies are more fun to think and talk about than to watch, and I found High Sierra and The Big Steal to be two of those.  Sure, Sierra was pivotal for Bogart’s career, and it is seen as the hinge between the older gangster genre films and the coming film noir, but it just didn’t move along smartly enough for me, much as I liked parts of it. 

Roy Earle (Bogart) comes to the mountains to plan a heist as soon as he is contacted on his release from prison.  He’s older than the crooks running the action now, but these young thugs don’t know anything about anything.  Why on earth do they bring a dame to the hideout?  Marie (Ida Lupino) looks pretty nasty here, but it turns out her heart is golden – not exactly noir territory.

Earle is getting too old for this life, and he is bewitched by a young girl he meets by chance when he helps her family on the road.  He spins dreams of marrying the lovely young thing, and he pays for surgery to correct her mild club foot.  He plays gracious benefactor to the family.


Back in the cabin, Roy has feverish dreams of crashing out.  Crashing out of prison, crashing out of his life into a world of respectibility, love, and freedom.  Marie watches him from the other room and senses the depth of Earle’s torment and alienation.  Okay, we’re getting into noir here…  He’s not just a gangster.


Earle promised to come see the girl when she was up and walking, despite the fact that she rejected his offer of marriage.  He finds her gussied up and dancing with her fiancé, a stuffed shirt from back home.  Earle sees just how absurd his dreams were for a guy like him.  She doesn’t seem so innocent anymore either.  Everything just turns to trash…


The heist doesn’t all go so well, and a chase into the Sierras ensures.  The police communicate by telephone and radio to capture the rat in their trap.  Thumbtacks on a map indicate the ineluctable convergence of the forces of law and order.  Maps have always been instruments of state power.


Earle is trapped in a rocky aerie in the mountains while a media circus gathers at the foot of the slope.  Minute by minute newscasts inform the public of his actions and inevitable demise.

A map and a car chase figure in The Big Steal also.  The film is a road movie/comedy/gangster caper.  It has a happy ending, so can we really call it noir?  Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer play a couple thrown together by their mutual desire to capture the lying cad, William Bendix.  He has the two grand she gave him as a loan after they were engaged as well as a much larger sum he filched from an army payroll run.  Mitchum seems like a crook but turns out to be the guy in charge of the payroll who was framed as a fall guy for the heist – he’s out to clear his name and retrieve the loot.  It takes a while before Mitchum and Greer believe each other’s stories and team up for keeps.  During the chase, he says to her, “I’ll believe your story if you’ll believe mine.”   Shades of Don Quixote and Bob Dylan!

Don Quixote coming to the squire, whispered in his ear, “Heark ye, Sancho; since you would have us believe what you say,touching the things you saw in heaven, I desire the like credit from you, with regard to those things I saw in the cave of Montesinos. That’s all.”   Cervantes – Don Quixote

I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.    Bob Dylan – Talking WWIII Blues


The chase has many twists, turns, and reverses.  Sometimes she drives!  Looking sharp in a cut silk dress she and he spot their man at a swank hotel.


The local police inpsector is playing cat and mouse with all of them, and improving his English along the way.  Only she speaks perfect Spanish of the gringos.  In the hotel, after a tussle, it looks like they finally have him for good.  Of course, he gets away – the film has a reel left.


A light moment while the couple pretends to be lovers eloping in order to gain the sympathy of a road construction crew that is blocking their route.

During the final showdown, with everyone in one room and a lot of guns being pointed in different directions, there is this wonderful sequence of two close-ups in very quick succession while the couple communicates their plan of attack.  It’s successful, of course.


Geez, another happy ending!  It’s putting me in a bad mood.