Tuesday, February 25, 2003


Though I'm a fan of Humphrey Bogart, I also realize he has a fairly limited range. The closer he is to quiet and stoic, the better off he comes. When he has to stray too far (into an accent in DARK VICTORY or into murky psychological depths in THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS), it always feels like he's trying too hard--except in THE CAINE MUTINY. In this movie, as in CARROLLS, he plays a tormented wife killer and the role doesn't really suit him. Bogart and his wife (Rose Hobart) are going through a rocky patch in their marriage; he hasn't been very attentive and she has figured out that Bogart has a crush on her younger sister (Alexis Smith). Bogart has not acted on his feelings, but when confronted, makes the decision to kill Hobart on an out-of-the-way mountain road, then report her missing. He uses a temporary (and partially faked) physical handicap as an alibi. Smith is dating young professor Charles Drake, but does seem vaguely receptive to Bogart's attentions. Soon, clues begin to crop up indicating that Hobart may actually be alive; did she survive? Is Bogart losing his marbles? Or is someone gaslighting him? Occasionally, a noirish atmosphere develops, but mostly this is a Gothic-type mystery set in decidedly non-Gothic settings (suburbia, academia, and the great outdoors). Sydney Greenstreet is a psychiatrist who has always admired the apparent strength of Bogart and Hobart's relationship. Grant Mitchell and Edwin Stanley (both from THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, Mitchell as the husband and Stanley as the butler) have supporting roles. Not a bad movie--in fact, Alexis Smith is quite good if a bit underused--but not one that plays to Bogart's strengths.

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