Thursday, November 07, 2013


Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart), convicted of killing his wife, escapes from San Quentin in a barrel and bums a ride from a guy named Baker (Clifton Young), but when the driver hears a radio report about the escape, Parry knocks him out and takes his clothes, and then gets a ride from Irene Jansen, an artist (Lauren Bacall); she knows who he is from the newspaper coverage of his trial but because her father was wrongly convicted of a similar crime, she believes in his innocence and agrees to help him. As it happens, Irene knows Madge (Agnes Moorehead), a woman who testified against Parry, and Irene is dating Bob, Madge's former boyfriend (Bruce Bennett), so Parry winds up getting plastic surgery on his face so he can investigate the murder for himself in the open. Unfortunately, his troubles are just beginning: his buddy George winds up murdered, the cops start trailing him because he seems suspicious, and Baker shows up on his tail. And, of course, there’s troublemaking Madge. This film noir works well despite (or, hell, maybe because of) the many strange plot twists. The great cast is also a plus. Bogart is, of course, the quintessential noir hero, though he doesn't quite seem as natural as he did in THE MALTESE FALCON. The first half is shot subjectively from Parry's point of view, so we never see what the character looks like before he becomes Bogart; it feels like an odd gimmick but probably necessary because of Bogie's distinct face. He and Bacall exhibit good chemistry, and the supporting cast (Bennett, Young, and especially Moorehead) is great. The way the ending plays out is a little surprising given the way it goes a bit against Production Code morality, but also anti-climactic. But there are some very good scenes in the last half that help mitigate the slightly weak ending. [TCM]

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