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Key Largo

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . B&W . 97 mins . PG . PAL


Key Largo is a tropical island linked to the Florida mainland by a flat concrete bridge. This is hurricane country, but at Key Largo humans are more dangerous than hurricanes.

Humphrey Bogart plays former army officer Frank McCloud, who has travelled to Key Largo to meet Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) and tell her what he remembered about her husband, who had died in Italy under his command.

Nora is staying at the hotel run by her husband's father, the wheelchair-bound James Temple (Lionel Barrymore). But also staying there is sadistic mobster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) and his pack of gunmen. Johnny had been deported from America some years earlier - this visit from Cuba to Key Largo is the start of a crime comeback trail.

Johnny Rocco and his boys had pretended to be big game fishermen when booking the hotel. But the pretence is soon dropped, and McCloud and the Temples realise they are prisoners of a vicious psychopath.

With a hurricane raging outside and emotions flaring inside, this is a taut and pretty terrific drama. McCloud, after his war experience, isn't a coward, but doesn't see the point of being dragged into a conflict which isn't going to change the world. This war-weary veteran seems to have lost the will to fight... or has he?

Edward G. Robinson, a dinosaur of an actor whom I usually dislike intensely, turns in a convincing and very effective performance as the loathsome Johnny Rocco. Humphrey is convincing as the war veteran, and Lauren Bacall is the same as ever - a pathetic actress, but she looks good and moves OK.

Top acting honours in fact go to Claire Trevor, who got minor billing for the role of Gaye Dawn, the gangster's alcoholic moll. This is a great performance, which avoids cliches and shows considerable depth.

The screenplay is by Richard Brooks and John Huston, who managed to craft a timely post-war drama from a play which was in fact written by Maxwell Anderson before the war's outbreak.

Was this originally a radio play? A strange screen credit states that this is "as produced on the spoken stage by the Playwright's Company". I guess the non-spoken stage version was by Marcel Marceau.


The transfer seems fine, and it's clear that the discrepancy in quality between interior and exterior photography is due more to the source (including newsreel footage of actual hurricanes) than to print condition.

Contrasts are strong and there is very little print wear of any sort. There is quite a deal of grain evident in exterior shots, but this somehow seems to add to a certain cinema-verite nitty-gritty feel of the movie. Overall, it's a first-class transfer.


The mono soundtrack is fully up to the job of delivering clear dialogue and good sound effects, and gives a fine account of the score by one of cinema's master-composers, Max Steiner.

There is little hiss or other wear evident, even at high volume levels. Overall, the sound texture is warm and rich.


This is disappointingly scant of extra features. There is a worthwhile vintage theatrical trailer presented in good condition - and that's all, folks.


This movie is one of the strongest entrants in the Bogart Collection Volume Two.

The only disappointment is the lack of any worthwhile extra features, other than the original theatrical trailer.

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      And I quote...
    "Key Largo in Florida is hurricane country. But humans are always more dangerous than the wildest of hurricanes..."
    - Anthony Clarke
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