Dark Passage is a movie in which perfectly exemplifies the Film Noir era in which it was created.
To sum up, the film follows an escaped convict, Vincent Perry (played by the famous Humphrey Bogart), from a few moments after he escapes prison, to the uneasy film conclusion. Vincent Perry was convicted and sentenced to prison for killing his wife. However, soon after he escapes, he is picked up by a sympathizer, Irene Jansen (played by Lauren Bacall) and is smuggled into San Francisco. His purpose in coming was to clear his name, but there are many obstacles and enemies in his way of doing so. One of his biggest obstacle? His own face.
The first half of the movie is actually filmed from Perry’s perspective, preventing us from seeing his face. This unusual way of filming was pretty striking to me, as this film style is pretty familiar to me now, but was relatively unheard of in late 1940s cinema. This perspective lasted for at least 45 minutes, which was equally building suspense, curiosity, and even frustration at the fact of why we couldn’t see his face. But why? I don’t want to spoil it too much, but after what happens… happens, it makes the rest of the film’s timeline so much more gratifying. I’m sure there were also logistical reasons as to why the first half of the movie was from Perry’s point of view (or had Perry’s face in the shadows), but their choice in doing a POV was pretty great.
The main problem? It’s the problem I always tend to have with many older, “made-to-be-blockbuster” movies: romance. Sure, there can be some in a film noir movie, and I definitely don’t mind it (An Affair To Remember is a great 1950s romance movie, if you have some time). But I have a problem when it’s just plopped in there “just because.” I know that Bogart and Bacall were married in real life, but forcing the storyline to add some romance because of that is uncalled for. The romance between Jansen and Perry seems sudden to me, and the drastic love she feels for him by the film’s end seems unjustified.
Overall? Definitely go watch it. It’s an under-appreciated film that didn’t get much buzz because of a political controversy at the time, but I feel it’s a film which shines well in a night sky full of dimly lit film noirs. For cinematographers, you’ll have a blast. For everyone else? The plot will draw you in and the ending will keep you both oddly gratified and shocked at the same time.
Dark Passage is available on Amazon Prime Video.