9 March 2006 | ccthemovieman-1
Supporting Actors Outshine Two Stars
Watching a "feature" on the DVD the other day after viewing this movie, it was interesting to hear that "Dark Passage" was never a popular film despite the headliners being Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
That was because studio head Jack Warner was displeased that Bogart's face wasn't shown for the first half of the film and so he didn't give the movie much publicity. The fact Bogey's face didn't appear for quite a while apparently didn't settle well with the public, either.
That was their loss: this is a fine film. The stars of it, really - the actors who put the spark in the story - aren't Bogey and Bacall anyway but the supporting actors. I can't recall a movie where the supporting cast was so good, so entertaining, as in this film.
Before naming them, let me preface by saying Bogart and Bacall still give good performances and Bacall still had a face in those early days that was mesmerizing BUT the people who make this movie click are:
Tom D'Andrea as the cab driver; Houseley Stevenson as the strange and extremely interesting plastic surgeon; Clifton Young as the blackmailer; Tory Mallison as Bogart's old best friend and Agnes Moorhead as the villainous snoop. These people are fantastic.
As an escaped convict on the run, we only see what Bogart sees until plastic surgery turns him into the familiar face we recognize. That sort of thing - seeing only what one character sees, using the camera as his eyes, was done in another noir, "Lady In The Lake," but not done as successfully as in this film. Here, it works as we meet these other weird characters as Bogart sees them. Actually, every character including Bacall's, is a bit odd. The script doesn't always make sense, either, to be honest, but it's fun to play along.
It was a simple but effective story with some neat twists along the way and pretty good suspense here and there, too. I think it's a very underrated film noir and very glad the long-awaited DVD gave it a nice transfer. This is another example of a classic film that looks far better on DVD than it ever did on tape. I hadn't realized how well-photographed this movie was until I saw it on disc.