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Daily Dose of Darkness #4: Over a Barrel (The Opening Scene of Dark Passage)


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The theatricality of the first person POV at the beginning of “Dark Passage” is very effective and, for the time, no doubt innovative.  But who picks up a hitchhiker with no shirt on?  Sadly, the authenticity of the first person POV is defeated by the implausibility of the driver’s action.  Even during a more trusting time, it would not take the driver as long as it does to become suspicious.    The whole scenario seems phony to me.  The beginning of “Dark Passage” is very unlike the openings of “La Bete Humaine” or “The Letter,” both of which ring true and immediately pull you into the story. 

 

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This is one of my favorite films.  The building of the  chemistry

between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall  builds steady  throughout the  film.
Not seeing Bogart’s face  added that extra suspense. 
The view inside the barrel and the character's journey  out of the  barrel while the police sirens are blazing somehow makes you  “root” for this  guy, before you  know the  entire  story and before you  see his face.  Seeing from his POV during the  first part of the  film is very interesting because the viewer is focus on the other characters and how they  react to the Bogart character. 

 

I agree.  It's one of my favorites as well.  Bogart was made for this role!  Because of the movie starting from his POV, they were able to allow the "surgery" without actually having to make Bogart up to look like a different person.  Helps make a small budget go farther and it never seemed hokey.

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The opening scene of the barrel tumbling down the hill immediately puts you in the action.  The noise of the sirens leads us to believe it is a prison break.  The narrations and the POV of the main character in the opening give us the sense that he is the escaped convict.  The driver of the car adds to the mystery by all the questions he is asking of the escapee.  Loved watching Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Key Largo, can't wait to see this film.

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Dave's use of first-person POV is certainly a departure from the rest of the curated openings we have been watching this week.  The rest of the films have set us up in a concerned voyeur position, but with Dark Passage we are thrust (mostly) into the head of the main character.  There are some dramatic shots of motorcycle cops racing by, and constant sirens that add to a sense of being hunted. . . but as soon as any person-to-person interaction enters the picture, the gimmick is pretty heavy-handed, and really distracts from any sense of danger, especially when Bogey is throwing some fairly fluttering punches.  I'm reminded of the incredible House of Wax's equally forced yo-yo in 3-D scene.

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The opening of "Dark Passage" is as unique as it is entertaining. I think the use of POV is very effective and adds to the tension and mystery found in Noir-type films. Having the first-person POV makes the viewer feel as though they were right alongside Vincent escaping prison, hitching a ride and all of the other action that ensues.

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The first person POV is a little unsettling to me, because I know what Humphrey Bogart looks like, and I want to see him! LOL But the gimmick works. It creates a sense of mystery. It is interesting later on when Lauren Bacall's character is looking at him, you really want to know what she's seeing.This is one of my favorite films.

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I love Bogart and his being a huge influence in noir.  The POV of in the opening scene is too allow the audience to understand the desperation that one would feel when trying to escape one of the most notorious prisons in the United States. This must been leading edge camera positioning at the time and would definitely seem fresh but would begin to draw on the audience after a time.

 

I think it is interesting that the prison break did not occur at night as it may of made a more exciting and more in line with the bleakness of noir.  I know the truck would not have been leaving in the middle of the night but it is just an observation.  Looking forward to next week and already started last night with "A Journey into Fear" with Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles.

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The opening shot of Dark Passage reveals two hands clutching the outer rim of a San Quentin garbage can.  As it furiously rocks and then rolls wildly down the side of a road, we see the spinning container from the inside of the can, rather than outside.  The escaped convict scrambles out, his mind taking in his surroundings and assessing just how much time he has before he’s caught.


 


Hitching a bumpy ride with a rather inquistive motorist only serves to heighten his already jumpy nerves.  Our nerves may not be holding up so well either, thanks to the steady clip of questions and the car barely staying on the road.  


 


This scene is shot from subjective point of view of the main character, and is something that we, the viewer, aren’t entirely used to.  Perhaps that’s why our anxiety climbs with every rapid-fire exchange between the driver and our main character, played by Humphrey Bogart.  If we play several other alternative POVs in our head, we can see that this one is more successful at maintaining the level of emotion.


 


But director Delmer Daves didn’t get there first.  Actor Robert Montgomery’s directorial debut for MGM was cult film noir favorite Lady in the Lake in January 1947.  The Raymond Chandler mystery, also starring Montgomery and Audrey Totter  (to very mixed reviews) was entirely shot using this innovative technique.  Warner Bros Dark Passage followed suit in December, 1947, starring the dream team of Bogart and Bacall.  


 


Unlike Lady in the Lake, Daves realized using just a touch of this off-beat POV goes a long way - which is why the opening of Dark Passage is so important, especially as the film progresses. 

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Having seen the entire film, I understand the POV of the opening was used to allow for a future plot point. If not for that, I really don't think the POV was successful.

 The use of first person POV necessitated the use of other devices  -- internal dialogue -- to move the plot along and didn't necessarily add to the tension -- we didn't see Parry's reactions to being grilled by the driver or hearing the bulletin announcing his escape.

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I love this movie, I've seen it multiple times.  I really like the first person perspective.  Instead of being a spectator watching the action, you're part of the action.  The beginning of the film, after it switches from third-person perspective to first person is very interesting.  I loved how they used the end of the tunnel as the point in which to switch the perspective.  I liked feeling that I was the one breaking out of San Quentin.  The jailbreak sirens in the background lend toward the chaotic atmosphere of the film.  Why did Bogart break out? Why is he in jail in the first place? These are questions you have as a first-time viewer.  When he gets into the car with the busy body and then the radio comes on (and like in most movies featuring the radio, it's always relevant to the action in the film) and spills the beans.  Without any words, you see the driver put two and two together and figure out who Bogart really is and why he's hitching a ride to San Francisco.  It is apparent that the driver is not going to make it out of this escapade unharmed--Bogart has to get away. 

 

I love the scenes later when Bacall finds him and picks him up.  He hides under her easel and art supplies when they cross the toll.  There's tension when her car is searched, ultimately of course, Bogart is not found.

 

The scenes that lead up to the film switching back to third person perspective again are kind of hokey but fun. 

 

For anyone who hasn't seen the film, I won't ruin the ending, but the highlight of the film for me is the scene between Agnes Moorehead and Bogart.  Bogie and Bacall, of course, are magical in their scenes together and their very end scene is very romantic--quite an unorthodox ending for a noir.

 

This may also be one of the few noirs where the lead actress isn't the femme fatale.  Agnes Moorehead, is definitely the femme fatale in this film. 

 

Great movie.  I look forward to seeing it again some time during the duration of this class.

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I didn't find the POV camera work in this opening to Dark Passage to be all that convincing largely because it wasn't consistent.  Sometimes (most of the time) we are viewing the world through Bogart's eyes but there are a few times when we see Bogart through our own eyes within that world.  Right from the get-go, we see his hands from outside of the barrel.  Then, as the barrel careers off the truck, it was clever to position the camera within the rolling barrel but then we watch Bogart leave the barrel and stagger out.  That, to me, was a jarring switch and my first thought was, wow, was the cameraman in there too going along for the ride!  LOL.  I also found it unintentionally funny when Bogart slaps up the good samaritan driver which reminded me of that old Soupy Sales routine with White Fang and Black Tooth.  Yes, I know that's probably before most posters' time.  I think POV filming is an excellent way to draw the viewer into the film but it needs to be handled with grace and not gimmicks.  Still, who am I to argue.  It is a Bogie and Bacall film after all.  

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I had not originally put this film on my must-see list for tomorrow, but now it is number 1. Very eager to see it for the first time. When Bogart looks around at the striped fabric over the back seat, it seems an allusion to the prisoner's stripes (even though he is apparently not in stripes, but a metaphor, nonetheless?). And the driver's at-first friendly but then prying questions are nerve-wracking. Fabulous opening!

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I had not originally put this film on my must-see list for tomorrow, but now it is number 1. Very eager to see it for the first time. When Bogart looks around at the striped fabric over the back seat, it seems an allusion to the prisoner's stripes (even though he is apparently not in stripes, but a metaphor, nonetheless?). And the driver's at-first friendly but then prying questions are nerve-wracking. Fabulous opening!

It is definitely a film to put at the top of your list. And how could you not? It's an amazing film and was the second film that Bogie and Bacall made together.

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Not a great fan of voice-over POV though it can be an effective way of scene setting - e.g. opening of Sunset Boulevard, (albeit a voice from the grave). It works in Dark Passage to a degree, but I feel the effect is spoiled by the almost comedic barrel scenes, though obviously it has to show the means of his escape. However where the story begins to take hold for me is when the driver who Vincent Parry hitches a lift from voices his suspicions which are soon confirmed. Suspicion is a recurring theme, as Parry's own lack of trust and suspicious mind continues, at the beginning even to his "protector" Irene Jansen, the cab driver, surgeon, and especially the devious Madge Rapf.

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The opening scene of Dark Passage was quite suspenseful. We are immediately put into a very tense situation. The use of first POV was remarkable, especially when Parry hitches a ride and to really see the facial reactions of the driver from Parry's POV was really interesting. This opening scene was definitely very unique in the way it was shot.

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Not a great fan of voice-over POV though it can be an effective way of scene setting - e.g. opening of Sunset Boulevard, (albeit a voice from the grave). It works in Dark Passage to a degree, but I feel the effect is spoiled by the almost comedic barrel scenes, though obviously it has to show the means of his escape. However where the story begins to take hold for me is when the driver who Vincent Parry hitches a lift from voices his suspicions which are soon confirmed. Suspicion is a recurring theme, as Parry's own lack of trust and suspicious mind continues, at the beginning even to his "protector" Irene Jansen, the cab driver, surgeon, and especially the devious Madge Rapf.

I was thinking of Sunset Boulevard also and the opening scene where you hear his voice. Thanks

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I have seen this movie in its entirety, but I need a refresher on it, so I'm glad I'll be seeing it again tomorrow; I think that not showing the character's face in the opening, (and for most of the movie), makes it the most suspenseful. You just HAVE to know what he'll look like! Also, Humphrey Bogart is just wonderful. 

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I like the pov especially in this movie. It brings you right into the movie as the escapee and not wanting to get caught yourself. Did he hide the shirt deep enough in the bush? Only five minutes

before they catch up with the truck and backtrack to look for him. The voice over is somewhat different than Sunset Blvd as that not from pov but narrating reminds me of Laura where you find out Laura died from the very start, both excellent ways to draw you in to the suspense or mystery of the movie.

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The opening tries to pull you in and start wondering and possible cheering for the main character even though he is an escaped prisoner. Growing up with a Mother who loved old movies, I grew up liking and cheering for Humphrey Bogart in everything except Roaring Twenties.

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This friday will be the first time I will be watching Dark Passage and I am so excited. I do think that the first person point of view was perfect for this opening. It allowed the audience to truely understand as much as possiible what the escaped conviced was feeling. If this was made in modern times most likely it would have been filmed in 3D but the POV is more successful than what 3D could have done.

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The dialogue was a bit stilted, but it's hard to beat an opening in which a driver picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be an escaped convicted killer who assaults him. Now I want to know what happens to these characters. And isn't that what an effective opening is supposed to do -- make you want to keep watching?

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I personally didn't care for the POV, it felt a little gimmicky. The interaction with the driver didn't seem real to me and I am not sure if it was supposed to make you feel as though you personally had escaped, but it didn't come through to me . I did appreciate the camera shot from the barrel as he left it. think that was a better technique than using the POV.

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First of all, the POV shot seemed like a all too familiar gimmick to try to make the audience feel by seeing through the eyes of the character- trying to point out that this character might be the good guy and he is wrongfully convicted , I feel it wasn't very effective as it didn't make me feel anything for the character. Seemed a bit unrealistic. But the barrel roll- revolving shot was nice.

 

I feel though it kind of added to the tension of the scene as the audience tries to figure out who the person is and whether he is a good or bad guy. 

 

It can be considered an important contribution to film noir as audience gets the sense and feel of the character, of what they are feeling and sensing around them. Audience gets the feeling of the atmosphere of the movie since after all the opening scene is supposed to establish that. 

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