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Dark Passage

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . B&W . 96 mins . PG . PAL


This is a real curiosity. Humphrey Bogart is the star, but we don't sight his face until a full hour of the movie has run past us. We hear his voice, see his suited figure from the back - but where's Bogie?

Well, Bogart is playing Vincent Parry, who is on the lam. He's escaped from San Quentin, where he's been imprisoned for murdering his wife. Needless to say, he didn't do it.

He's on the lam, but fate draws him to the only three people who can help him. Irene Jansen (played by Mrs Bogart, aka Lauren Bacall) wants to help him because - well, she just likes him. And her own father was found guilty of a murder he didn't commit, so Bogie gets her sympathy vote.

And there's a taxi-driver, Sam (an especially good vignette by character-actor Tom D'Andrea), who just knows intuitively that Vincent's an OK kind of guy. And one of Sam's best friends just happens to be a deregistered plastic surgeon, who just might be persuaded to give Vincent a new face, to let him move around with relative anonymity while he tries to track down the real killer.

Yes, this plot just creaks with improbabilities, but it does possess a certain vintage charm. And the acting is strong; watch out especially for Agnes Moorehead (more famous today as Samantha's mother Endora in the classic television series Bewitched), who plays Lauren Bacall's total-bitch friend Madge to perfection.

I remember an episode of the vintage television series 77 Sunset Strip which filmed an entire episode with the camera moving as if it was the actor Efrem Zimbalist Jnr. You never saw Zimbalist; just heard his voice, and watched the action as if from his eyes. That was pure hokum, and so is the first hour of Dark Passage, till Bogie gets his new (i.e. old) face and the film can then adopt a conventional storytelling mode. But it never really recovers. It's an entertaining curiosity, but is so far down in the catalogue of memorable Bogie movies that it's a wonder it made it into this Bogart collection at all.


This 1947 black and white movie is a notch above others preceding it in this collection. The controlled studio shoots are beautifully depicted, with fine tonal values, and even the numerous exterior shots are presented with great detail and contrasts.

Once again Warners shows that few other studios are as careful in their transfers of old material as they consistently are. These images just gleam with the special magic lustre that old black and white movies can show.


The mono sound is really very strong and clear, and the dialogue comes across with great detail. Hiss and other defects are virtually non-existent.

The soundtrack, by the great Max Steiner (who also scored The Big Sleep and Treasure of Sierra Madre in this collection), is also presented well.

All in all, this movie has probably not sounded this good for almost 60 years.


The short (under 11 minutes) documentary Hold Your Breath and Cross Your Fingers: The Story of 'Dark Passage' concentrates mostly on the life and time of Humphrey Bogart and his beautiful, but relatively untalented, actress wife Lauren Bacall. It relates how director Howard Hawks failed to have his wicked way with Ms Bacall, and sold her contract to Warners in a fit of pique, as well as relating the trials and travails the Bogarts had as a result of hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee. It's interesting stuff, but focuses too heavily on personal life instead of cinematic history.

There's a Warners vintage cartoon of the period, Slick Hare, with Elmer Fudd running a restaurant at which Bogart arrives, demanding fried rabbit. And the only rabbit on hand is, of course, Bugs Bunny. This is great fun, with impersonations of movie stars galore, with Bugs doing a particularly effective Groucho Marx, famous walk and all. Bugs is naturally reluctant to lie down and get fricaseed - that is, until he learns that the dish isn't for Bogie, but for wifey Lauren...

The final extra feature is a typically atmospheric Warners theatrical trailer. There is some print damage evident - flecking, scratches and so forth - but not enough to spoil enjoyment of this vintage material.


This movie is a pleasant diversion, but it's not worth buying or renting on its own - it's strictly here to make up the numbers in the Bogart Collection Volume Two.

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      And I quote...
    "Strictly a curiosity piece, Dark Passage is a lightweight offering of interest only to dedicated Bogart/Bacall fans."
    - Anthony Clarke
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