Dark Passage

Year 1947

Humphrey Bogart as Vincent Parry
Lauren Bacall as  Irene Jansen
Agnes Moorehead as Madge Rapf
Houseley Stevenson   as Dr. Walter Coley  
Director - Delmer Daves
Screenwriter - Delmer Daves  

Dark Passage is in the running as my least favorite Bogart film. The plot is that Vincent Parry (Bogart) escapes from prison to clear his name as the murderer of his wife. A lot like The Fugitive without the one armed man.

To do this, he needs to interact with two people. All of the other people in the movie, and there aren't very many more, are just window dressing for a plot device. Besides the lack of any layering at determining the true killer, there's also an overabundance of coincidences.

But what about the plot device? To call it that gives it too much credit as it doesn't move the story along. It's more of a 1947 version of a chia pet. Maybe it was even avant-garde for the creativity impaired. This trick is that Vincent Parry has plastic surgery performed so that no one recognizes him. I'm sure that using plastic surgery to change a person's appearance was done both before and after Dark Passage, for example it was done in Arsenic and Old Lace. But in this movie, it's presented differently.

For the first third of the movie, where Parry has his old face, you never see his face. All the viewer sees is what Parry sees. Parry's eyes are the camera, so to speak, and Bogart narrates his thoughts. Then, for the second third of the movie, Parry has his face wrapped in bandages after the surgery and he can't speak. Then, for the last third of the movie, it's both Bogart's face and voice.

Needless to say, it's like watching three very boring short films. In the first film, Parry escapes from prison, gets picked up by a guy who becomes a blackmailer, dumps him, gets picked up by Irene Jansen (Bacall) the one person in the world who is his champion, leaves her, and gets picked up by a cab driver who is the one cab driver in the city who knows a good plastic surgeon who'll operate on escaped convicts.

Irene Jansen also happens to know somebody named Madge Rapf who was a friend of Parry's wife. In fact, Madge comes to visit Irene while Parry is staying at Irene's apartment. Too many coincidences yet?

Well, Parry gets his face changed and we're treated to half an hour of watching him and Irene communicate using pad and pencil. Whee!

Then, the bandages are removed and Parry intends to escape the city. Always on the run, our boy. But, he coincidentally gets stopped by a cop and has to run away from him, too. In the end, Parry figures out who really killed his wife but that person, or their stuffed dummy, dies after falling out of a window.

As far as the ending is concerned, think The Shawshank Redemption.

Even though it's Bogart and Bacall, the method of story telling means it's dry and and slow. If it was not for the face alterations, this would have been a half hour episode of Warmed Over Suspense Theater. Translation - the first two-thirds of the film are throw away and the pay-off never happens. Sorry Bogey.

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