The Film (4/5)
During their heyday Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made 4 films together. They were all quite successful upon their release with the exception of one, 1947's film noir Dark Passage. Dark Passage stars Bogart as Vincent Parry a man serving a life sentence after being wrongfully accused of his wife's murder. The film opens as Vincent escapes from San Quentin Prison in the back of a supply truck barrel. The film is totally from his first person perspective in the first act, and the first thing we see of him is his hands. He immediately gets rid of his prison garb, and beats a stranger and takes his clothes. Eventually he comes across a kind woman Irene Jansen(Bacall) who picks him, and sneaks him back into San Francisco gets him new clothes, and hides him, being sympathetic to his plight. Along the way he meets a back alley plastic surgeon that alters his face to be totally unlike it was when he escaped, and old friends from before he was in prison, and also the true murderer of his wife, but his main goal was not to solve her murder, but to maintain his freedom.
Dark Passage is a fast and tight little thriller. It also takes an interesting perspective considering the era when it was shot. Now, viewers are more accustomed to seeing films and video games in the first person, but having a film especially with an actor of Bogart's prestige in the lead must have been quite jarring and contributed to the film's failure to connect at the box office. Even after the film loses the first person perspective Bogart spends the 2nd act of the film in bandages before revealing his transformation in the third act.
The film is quite a suspenseful affair during most of it's running time as the viewer is made to believe that the shoe is going to constantly drop, and Parry is going to inevitably end up in prison. This is added to by the fact that none of his plans are exactly well thought out, and each moment that he is enacting part of his escape is sloppy in execution. This makes him more human and impulsive.
The performances in the film are quite excellent, even though Bogart isn't directly seen for the first 2/3's his voice acting works well here, and Bacall as usual is an excellent foil. The film is populated by other minor more eccentric characters that really stand out (like the weirdo plastic surgeon that reminded me a bit of Bruce Campbell's in Escape from L.A.) and really help the film feel like a series of interconnecting interactions while Parry attempts an escape.
Warner Archives presents Dark Passage in a splendid 1:37:1 1080p AVC encoded Blu-ray that really brings out the gorgeous black and white cinematography. Detail is excellent, black levels are deep, and contrast is excellent.
The audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track in English with optional English subtitles. The track is solid with dialogue and score coming through nicely, and no audio defects to complain about.
Dark Passage gets a slim, but decent selection of Blu-ray extras. The Blu-ray has a 10 minute TCM crafted making of, a Looney Tunes cartoon featuring Bogart trying to order Rabbit, and and HD version of the film's trailer.
Warner Archive's restoration of Dark Passage is quite stunning and sound excellent. The Blu-ray has slim extras, but at least it's not totally barebones. The film itself is a tight, dark, and suspenseful affair, and the whole package is RECOMMENDED.