A noir in two halves

Watching Dark Passage, I'm surprised I haven't heard more about this film. It's the third pairing of Bogart and Bacall, and the first after their marriage. Throw in the well-handled first-person POV of Bogart's escaped convict for much of the first half of the film, and this film begins to feel overlooked for me.

Bogie's character, who supposedly had killed his wife, splits his time between self-preservation and trying to find the real killers. We never even get to really see him until after the bandages come off his face from plastic surgery. The scene where he examines and comments on his "new" face is worth the price of admission, if purely for the celebrity irony.

Typically, the plot gets complicated, and motivations aren't always clear. Bogie plays the usual wisecracking cynic who somehow wins out. The scenes with Bacall aren't quite so steamy as in To Have And Have Not, or The Big Sleep. There's enough to get us interested in their relationship, but then the film takes a turn and we leave her behind, except for a weak tied-up-with-a-bow ending that may be perfectly reasonable, but ultimately disappointing.

Scrap everything after the bandages come off, and we might have a real classic on our hands - maybe not everything, but we lose much of what the film had going for it beyond that moment. The difference between halves is not so severe as Dusk 'til Dawn, and I wouldn't say it's a problem except for the drop in imagination. If you like Bogart, Dark Passage has everything you're looking for in one of his films, it's just not the complete package it could have been, which is going to why it's not quite so well known.

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