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High Sierra

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . B&W . 95 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

This is almost the first movie Bogart made in which he received top billing. Almost, as his co-star, Ida Lupino, had the absolute top billing spot. But Bogie was listed right up on top, next to her. From this movie on, he was always THE star.

High Sierra saw Bogie reverting back to an earlier type he'd played - the gangster. But this was no ordinary gangster. This was Mad Dog Earle, loosely modelled on the notorious John Dillinger, and in it, Bogie, even more than Jimmy Cagney before him, defined the gangster genre.

The movie features a taut script, and tight direction by Raoul Walsh, who also directed the preceding (and better, in my opinion) movie, They Drive By Night. I'm not crazy about the gangster movie genre, but I have to admit, through clenched teeth, that this does deserve its reputation as a classic movie, and it certainly does deserve thanks for placing Bogie on his eminently-deserved peak in filmdom's landscape.

The movie tells the story of Mad Dog Earle, who has been released early from gaol, just in time to plan a major heist. Of course, things go wrong. And gangster's moll, Marie (Ida Lupino), is no help when the going gets tough.

Along the way, Mad Dog is able to show that he has a softer side, courtesy of young girl Velma (Joan Leslie), who has a club-foot but who is otherwise as cute as a baby bunny. Joan Leslie plays the role with lovely grace. And nowadays, of course, that club-foot would be sure to win her a 'Best Supporting Actress' Oscar.

"YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE, COPPERS!"

The famous close, atop of Mount Whitney, as Bogie shouts his defiance in that freshly-coined cliche, is justly celebrated. Mountain climbing never reached this peak again, till Cary Grant tackled Mount Rushmore in Hitchcock's North by Northwest.

I wouldn't place this amongst Bogie's finest movies, but that probably reflects my dislike of this genre. But I can see that it deserves its reputation. It is a major part of the legend of Bogie, one of the greatest of the 20th century Hollywood icons.

  Video
Contract

This is another very respectable Warners transfer. There is more grain than evident in either the preceding movie in this collection (They Drive By Night) or its successor (The Maltese Falcon), but it just serves as a reminder of its vintage. If only all movies made in 1941 looked this good!

The tonal values aren't quite on the preceding movie's level; there doesn't seem to be the absolute blacks and whites; grey tones tend to predominate. But it's not washed-out by any means. It just doesn't exhibit the highest contrasts we do see in some Warners movies from this period. Overall, it's a very viewable effort.

  Audio
Contract

The mono soundtrack has reasonable atmosphere and ambience and gives very clear dialogue, with only slight occasional hiss, and with no distortion or echo-chamber effect. It's not great sound, but suffices to move the story along with the desired legibility.

  Extras
Contract

The 15-minute documentary feature, Curtains for Roy Earle: The Story of High Sierra, features contributions from a variety of talking heads, led by Leonard Maltin.

It's a snappy and factual account of the background to the movie and its place in building the Bogart legend. It's fascinating to hear how Bogie managed to finagle George Raft from taking the lead role. Raft had been offered it. Bogie, who knew how important it would be for his career, convinced Raft that it would be detrimental to his. And Raft bought Bogie's story... The rest is history.

The original theatrical trailer is a typical (meaning excellent and atmospheric) Warner trailer of the time - short, snappy and punchy. It's presented in good transfer quality, about as good as the movie itself.

  Overall  
Contract

To me, this is the weakest of the four movies in this Bogart Collection. But because I'm always dispassionate, I'm willing to admit that's my personal taste. You may love it... and it's certainly a worthy part of this great collection.


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      And I quote...
    ""You'll never take me alive, coppers!" shouts Bogie, as he makes the defiant stand which made him a star."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Panasonic A330
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          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
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