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


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Humphrey Bogart's distinctive face couldn't be revealed until the bandages came off. First person POV suited perfectly. Ironically, "Dark Passage" was my introduction to him. I was just a kid and didn't know who he was or what he looked like!

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1. Do you feel this film's use of first person POV in this scene was successful or not successful? Largely, but it probably goes on a little too long for my taste. I'd have ended it maybe right after the viewer sees Bogart's muddy shoes.


2. How do you think the use of a first person POV added to the tension of this scene? It's as if you're the one hitching the ride or steadying yourself against the fence so you don't fall over after the barrel ride. Somehow, the tension is increased by the driver of the car staring at you as the radio reads out the description of the convict.


3. In what ways can the opening of Dark Passage be considered an important contribution to the film noir style? It's muddy, gritty, and despair seems to abound. This is noir alright.


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This is another favorite of mine, with two of my favorite actors - Bogart and Bacall.  The opening sequence from the POV of Vincent Parry is, to me, a stroke of genius and added to the tension that builds all the way through the movie.  You truly feel as if you've rolled down an incline in a barrel yourself, and Bogart is appropriately disoriented in his movements once he climbs out. It forces the viewer to imagine himself or herself in the same predicament, understanding that your movements must be timed, yet you must move fast, otherwise it's back to Quentin you go.  Moodiness, Parry's dialog with himself and the fact that you don't see his face until you're well into the movie all are elements that pull the viewer into the action.  He or she can't help but to be intrigued, and to want more.  And like The Letter, you know this man has done something wrong - or at least has been accused of doing something wrong - but his backstory, i.e., the why and how he ended up in San Quentin is what you desperately want to know. These are all noirish elements that work, plus I always like a story about an underdog who, despite terrible odds and continous "bad luck" (recognition by the driver who picks him up, the cop at the diner, the deaths of people whom he knows - after he breaks out of Quentin), manages to prevail.  

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1. Do you feel this film's use of first person POV in this scene was successful or not successful? Largely, but it probably goes on a little too long for my taste. I'd have ended it maybe right after the viewer sees Bogart's muddy shoes.

2. How do you think the use of a first person POV added to the tension of this scene? It's as if you're the one hitching the ride or steadying yourself against the fence so you don't fall over after the barrel ride. Somehow, the tension is increased by the driver of the car staring at you as the radio reads out the description of the convict.

3. In what ways can the opening of Dark Passage be considered an important contribution to the film noir style? It's muddy, gritty, and despair seems to abound. This is noir alright.

 

Didn't they need to wait to show Bogart until after the surgery???!  Showing him before the surgery makes ZERO sense.

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I respectfully disagree with all of the people who negatively criticize this movie as being unnatural or the POV ran on too long or POV is a gimmick or this could have been done a lot better, the acting was stilted, some scenes were unintentionally comical etc. These are the very things that I love about Film Noir. There is always an element of the surreal, the grotesque the in-your-face. If you go back and watch M, that will remind you of where all those elements where inspired from. Dark Passage is highly stylized, and that's why I like it. If I want natural lighting and realistic, true to life acting and dialogue, I'll just watch movies from the 1970s.

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I've loved this movie since I was little, so there is admittedly some bias involved when I say I think the opener of Dark Passage is freaking fantastic. It borders on being a little gimmicky in spots sure, but sometimes you've got to push the envelope if you're going to stand out - something I think this film pulls off exceptionally well (at least much better than The Lady In The Lake, released the same year).

It's a neat trick that creates all sorts of questions for the audience that are usually answered immediately: who is our protagonist? What did they do? And most notably, what do they look like?

 

Taking away the comfortability of seeing our (anti)hero's face for the first forty or so minutes of the picture is a bold choice - and one that undoubtedly separates it from the gang of prison break pictures made during the era (Brute Force, Canon City). Not to say Dark Passage is solely about escaping from jail; it taps into mystery, melodrama, and romance (it's Bogart & Bacall, what'd you expect?) all with master precision. But discussing this opener as a standalone scene, it's definitely an attention grabber and one hell of a start.

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I have such mixed feelings about the POV use in the opening of Dark Passage. I feel like it would have been more successful if there had been a shaky cam effect. I'm guessing that wasn't a thing in the 40's, though. For me, it was most successful in the barrel roll. However, immediately after, I was dizzy but the character wasn't. Or I guess I should say the camera wasn't? 

 

What I like about the POV here is it puts us on the side of the escaped convict. If we were to just see a man escaping from jail we wouldn't know where to stand. Would we be on his side? Is he our protagonist or our antagonist? This POV shot answers these questions. It lets us know whose side we're on. I think that's a really good use of cinematography to help tell the story and not just be an accessory. 

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I feel Dark Passage's first person POV was highly effective and successful in this film noir. The VO goes hand in hand adding tension as we are not only given the opportunity to be in the shoes of Vincent, the escaped convict, but also know what's going on inside his head.

 

The POV puts us right inside the film, as though we are the escapee. The police are hunting us, we are the ones who will be potentially turned in by the driver who has given us a ride. We are the ones who are constantly looking over our shoulders, and wondering if a prolonged glance by a passerby is indicative of being recognized in the most horrible way.

 

Dark Passage's opening provides a VO, which is an element used in film noir, most notably, Double Indemnity (1944). The VO serves as a guide for the audience throughout a scene/scenes. Sometimes the VO recounts how the doomed hero came into their current situation, and within the opening of Dark Passage, it provides the audience with a sort of play by play of the current events. This film seems to be an exciting entry within this very enticing genre.

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I usually find the use of P.O.V. kinda hokey, but I liked the results in this clip. I think the small details helped overcome the style's flaws.
I thought the shaking of the fence and looking over his shoulder to see if they were being followed added a nice touch.
I especially liked the driver looking up when the radio announcer disclosed his hair color and looking back down to see his eye color.
It worked for me.

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I have to admit, having seen this film for the first time in this clip, I really didn't like the POV. Just seemed a bit off, but that is just my personal opinion. I guess it adds a bit of suspense to the scene, although I would have preferred to just see the back of the escapee, would have been more effective, and also you wouldn't see the face of the convict. (for whatever reason).

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I have to agree with some of you who aren't totally sold on the first person POV and that it wasn't totally used throughout the whole scene.  I do have to admit though, the scene when the barrel stops and you see our escapee run through that tunnel is pretty impressive.  I do think the POV works when he's going up the hill and sees the police, you feel his desperation and that he's running out of time and needs to think of something fast.  In the car, you're experiencing his interpretations of the driver, the radio; and as he's looking around...up ahead is that freedom and behind is that police and a return to prison.  When the car stops right at that road sign...very effective ending to the scene.

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First person POV makes sense after you see the rest of the movie. Personnaly I like it as it makes us an accomplice and throws us into the situation. I like the first shot where we only see the hands coming out of the barrel. How desparate your situation must be if you are willing to blindly throw yourself off a moving truck in a barrel.

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The barrel with San Quentin on it gives you all the information you need  at the beginning of the clip.  Since  you never see Bogart's face in this scene you feel his isolation.  The questioning driver leads to the realization that this ride is doomed.

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Do I believe that the opening is successful? For the most part it's well handled but the scene with the barrel does strike me as more Looney Tunes than it should be. Not only the physical "gag" in itself, but the way that Parry so easily can get upon his feet.

 

The POV through the tunnel is a big plus as well as the overall camera movement in the scene and indeed through the film.

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At first the use of first person POV in this movie seems a little awkward, while Vince is stumbling around the in the bushes trying to get out. But once he's in the car with the guy who picked him up, having the other character looking right at you and giving the 3rd degree adds to the feeling of tension. You feel nervous being grilled and so it's safe to assume that Vince must be feeling uncomfortable and slightly trapped as well.

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I'm not a fan of the POV.  Agree with others that it's hokey.  I just find it annoying.  it's difficult to get completely into the scene with the narrow focus.  However a lot of info gets packed into this opening. Having the escapee get into the car and having the driver quiz him is a great technique, however the driver is seemingly suspicious from the start which makes little sense, because he just picked up this strange man in an undershirt.  When the radio tips off the driver, it confirms his suspicion.  It could have been better if the actor playing the driver could have been convincing that he really was trying to be friendly and was innocently helping a stranger and then the mood gradually shifts to suspicion with the mounting evidence that the hitch-hiker is an escaped murderer.   

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I am a LITTLE unsure of the usage of POV.. From my life experiences, I have taken it to mean Point-Of-View, but frequently, I find that what is referred to as POV is still NOT from the individual's point of view, which I think should be as if the viewer, ME (as the audience, observing), would see what the 'person' is viewing/doing.. I have never studied film as an acxademic, but once conversed with a film student in a bar; I asked him how he would film an opening sequence of THAT bar, he was at a loss, but I gave him twelve ways to film it, depending on the genre of the cinema, and other factors. WHAT s POV? .. the pov of the character, the director, or the observer?

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I was surpirsed to read that some people didn't enjoy the 1st person POV. I really did. In particular, perhaps, because it wasn't the entire scene. I find films (or even full scenes) which are filmed in their entirety in 1st person POV to be extremely annoying. However, I enjoyed the back and forth. It helps create a sense of identity for the character and also to heighten the tension from his perspective. The urgency felt in parts of the scene is just underscored further by seeing things through his perspective.

 

I do happen to think it's successful in creating expectations for the rest of the film (which I haven't watched) in regards to the sense of urgency and desperation, but also in understanding the characters strenghts, motivations and personality.

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I believe the opening was very successful, at least to me.  The first time I watched Dark Passage it was 11:00 at night.  I had left TCM on in my bedroom and I was just about to fall asleep.  I decided to watch Robert Osborne's remarks and then turn off the TV and go to sleep.  Then the movie started and I watched the film from Bogart's POV.  I didn't know that there was another first-person POV noir.  I thought The Lady in the Lake was the only one.  Anyway, the entire film captivated me.  I stayed up until 1am!

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I'd agree with others that switching between the POV shots and not (at least in the beginning), take **** out of the POV a bit. Th barrel rolling down the hill is great, but Daves just couldn't resist that great shot of Bogie running away through the mouth of the barrel--not that I blame him. It is a little awkward, though. After that, the POV picks up nicely. I consider it effective once you've seen the film, but at first it does seem a little gimmicky. It does add to the tension, however, by putting us directly into Bogie's seat.

 

 

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I think the POV beginning to this movie is very successful. You are right in the barrel with him. (Although the camera looks out of the barrel at him as he stumbles through the sewer, a great shot.) Looking both ways, watching as the motor cycle police go over the bridge, parting the leaves and looking across the river back at San Quentin, all of these establish the tension he is feeling as a fleeing fugitive.

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