Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Dark Passage (1947)

"I was born lonely I guess"

Dark Passage was the third of four films made by Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It tells the story of Vincent Parry (Bogart), a man wrongly convicted of killing his wife. He escapes from prison and is helped by a young woman, Irene Jansen (Bacall), who has taken an interest in his case. Parry accepts an offer to have plastic surgery on his face, and with this new identity he sets out to clear his name.

The first half of the film is very atmospheric. The audience does not see Parry's face, until after his operation, so it is shot from his point of view. When he receives plastic surgery it creates a strange atmosphere, with the bandages wrapped around his head, Parry resembles an Egyptian mummy. The stark white of the bandages stands out vividly against the darkness of the night.

One of the main themes in the film is loneliness. All the characters are lonely in their own way. Parry is seemingly alone in his quest for freedom, Irene has lost all her family and has become attached to a criminal case, Bob (Bruce Bennett) is looking for security with Irene after the breakup of his own relationship, the taxi driver makes frequent references to his own loneliness, the surgeon was fired from the medical practice he worked in, and we see him working under the cover of darkness. The controlling Madge (Agnes Moorehead) is also lonely but has used this to manipulate everyone around her. One of the starkest scenes of loneliness is when Parry visits his old friend George. George lives alone in a dark dinghy flat, he dreams of moving to South America to play his trumpet. Interestingly all the characters wish to escape to either Mexico or South America, warm sunny places, far from the darkness of San Francisco. 

The film is beautifully shot and Bacall is stunning, her rich lifestyle contrasting with the drabness of the rest of the city, the empty hotels and diners Bogart frequents. It is not one of Bogart's finest films, but he gives a solid performance, and the strangeness of the subject matter gives the story weight. Bacall later wrote in her autobiography that during filming Bogart began to lose his hair due to alopecia areata, and by the time filming ended he was wearing a wig.


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