From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search Dark Passage DVD Cover Directed by Delmer Daves Produced by Jerry Wald Written by Story: David Goodis Screenplay: Delmer Daves Starring … see full wiki
The spark between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart ignited the screen in To Have and Have Not, the 1944 movie that was their first together. By the time they made The Big Sleep two years later, it seemed as if Bogart and Bacall could exchange witty, suggestive banter in their sleep.
And in Dark Passage (1947), they almost do.
There is in this movie very little of the passion between the stars that helped make their earlier movies so memorable. In The Big Sleep, every sentence they speak to each other is a seduction. In Dark Passage, everything they say seems more like code, as if they're sharing private jokes they know we don't understand. One gets the idea that they were saving their energy for their off-screen romance. That's fine for them, but much less satisfying for their audience.
Even at their most sizzling, Bogart and Bacall would have had trouble with this one. The story, adapted for the screen by director Delmer Daves from a novel by David Goodis, simply isn't compelling and much of it isn't believable. It has many of the elements of a good thriller -- an escaped convict, a beautiful woman trying to help him, shady characters trying to hurt him or worse -- but it doesn't make much of them. There is enough here to keep you occupied while you wait for the movie to get better, but not enough to prevent you from realizing that it never really does.
The first 40 minutes are a gimmick. Bogart escapes from prison and much of the time the camera is positioned where his face is supposed to be. It's an effort to tell the story from the point-of-view of Bogart's character, but it doesn't really work. It starts with a fleeting shot of what it might look like from inside a barrel rolling downhill and it ends with some interesting imagery that's like a black & white kaleidoscope, but in between it is unconvincing and even irritating.
You know how a lot of popular magazines contain celebrity features by writers who strive for a false immediacy by using the second-person? Well, they never make you feel that YOU are having breakfast with Julia Roberts or YOU are chatting with Brad Pitt, do they? That's because you're not. In Dark Passage, you never really feel like Lauren Bacall is talking to you or handing you a cigarette. That's because she's not.
Instead of being impressed, it is easier to be distracted by the sometimes clumsy point-of-view camera trickery. In one instance, the camera almost bumps into the back of Lauren Bacall's head when Humphrey Bogart is following her. One can't help wonder, "Why didn't they stop sooner?"
The technique of filming from the star's perspective didn't work any better when Robert Montgomery used it in 1946 to bring Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novel Lady in the Lake to the screen. But while Montgomery kept up the trick through all of his muddled mystery, Daves was wise to drop it after about 40 minutes of Dark Passage. And when he does, it's with an explanation that makes sense, although it does demand that you overlook the unlikeliness of people not recognizing Bogart's distinctive voice.
That's just one of the plot elements that don't quite work. It's best just to accept them as not mattering much. For example, when Bacall's character risks her own safety to help Bogart's convicted killer, whom she's never met, take it on faith that she knows what she's doing. And when the killer is revealed and the identity is at least a little implausible, remember it's just a movie.
But a movie with some nice touches. Bogart and Bacall are interesting even when they're not larger-than-life, as they certainly are not here. Agnes Moorehead is in a supporting role that allows her to use some of the meddling energy she brought decades later to her part as the witch mother-in-law on television's Bewitched. And there is a cab driver, played by Tom D'Andrea, who livens things up with his philosophical observations and a discussion about "tireder fish."
Along the way there are some good lines. For example, a character sums himself up with, "I was a small-time crook until just this very minute. Now I'm a big-time crook. And I like it."
Dark Passage isn't bad, but it's not as good as one senses it could have been. Early on, Bacall's character explains to Bogart's why she is putting so much effort into helping him. "When I get excited about something," she says, "I give it everything I have. I'm funny that way." It would have been nice if she and Bogart had been excited enough about this movie to apply that philosophy to it.