Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
kevroy7

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

Recommended Posts

First of all to capture the POV shots on what appears to be a hand held camera, at a time where there was no STEADICAM, is an astonishing achievement. There had to be a massive undertaking packed with planning every moment of the process.

 

The viewer is right in the thick of things, like it or not. We are all an accomplice to the scape convict. We get to feel his fears, and excitements for better or worst.

 

One of the most thrilling openning sequences of all noirs, and a very unique film.

 

I have seen this film many times and it gets better with each viewing.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love all the films starring Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. Their chemistry on screen is delicious. Bacall is exquisitely beautiful and she commands attention whenever she is on screen. I did enjoy the 1st person POV in the opening car scene, because all you heard was Bogart's voice, & that was identity enough. My husband loved the POV when he hit the driver, it did feel like we were there. Anything that can get my husband to enjoy more film noir is cool with me. I enjoyed the "reveal" more, when you matched the distinctive voice with the face. I really love this summer course for film noir fans. Because if any of them are like me, we like to discuss movies. I have a "pause for commentary" moment, at least once during a movie when I view it at home. #NoirSummer

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dark Passage--I agree with a lot of what people have said about POV.  It's effective for a while and then can get in the way.  "Lady in the Lake" gives you a breather for a second when you see them in a mirror, it's almost jolting because to my recollection it happens only once in that film.  In the opening of "Dark Passage," the jumping back and forth between POV and 3rd-person camera at first confused but then enlightened.  He's all alone, but is he?  When it switches to 3rd-person I got the feeling that someone else is watching.  We, the audience. We're in on it, too.  Cool.  Beautiful print.  I see that the director, Delmer Daves, also wrote the screenplay.  An auteur, unusual in those days, and his enthusiasm for his project shows in every frame.  There's something very exciting about the energy surrounding these setups.  They must have been challenging at the time and they come off as if they are fashioned out of love for one's art.  This is another one I haven't seen.  I look forward to it.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I kept thinking about the POV in relation to Bogey's character. He is a man on the run. His face is recognizable. We get that sense of being on the lamb because we, as audience, have his face. The POV adds the tension of being someone recognized who is on the run. It is almost a commentary on ownership of image and self, in some way. Something happens when the bandages come off. Bogey's character no longer has any connection to his face and, therefore, we are cut from that relationship, as well. I apologize that I may not be explaining this as well as I'd like. I was up late last night watching film noir on TCM.  :D

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The use of POV always seems to divide viewers. Some find in distracting others dislike it. It reminded me of Lady in the Lake. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did like the opening, but felt that it could have been edited down some after Parry emerges from the tunnel. The dialogue with the driver was a little unrealistic for me in that nobody peppers someone with that many questions after just meeting them. Dark Passage is based on a novel by David Goodis, who used 3rd POV for narrative strategy in the novel. The film was also considered the precursor to The Fugitive, which led to a lawsuit between the Goodis Estate and the studio. While I like the Bogie and Bacall chemistry, the real star for me in this movie is Agnes Moorehead.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If it were any other actor portraying an escaped prisoner, I doubt I would feel so eager for him to succeed. Knowing it's Bogie, even before the transition from first person back to third person point of view, makes me root for him even as he's punching the innocent driver of the car he's trying to hitch a ride in. That guy was pretty annoying, but it's not like he deserved to be attacked. And yet, because I'm on Bogie's side, I condone that violence and actually derive some joy out of it. Some of which may be a direct result of how fake the hitting is. That's good for a laugh. 

 

I also like how we are able to see parts of the car that aren't often shown - the floorboards, the radio. It really helps to give a deeper sense of how people lived in that time. People with the luxury of automobiles of course.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening is interesting but grows weary after a few minutes.  I like the rolling barrel shot and the brief scene where he is walking through the brush.  But shortly thereafter it grows weaker by the minute until Bacall shows up.  At least then there is something to view. (very poor plot construction here--she just shows up as he is about to whack the guy--which would be out of character since he is not a murderer).  

  After viewing Lady in the Lake which had been released the previous year, this technique could not have seemed unique.  Bogart's voice is very distinctive so the viewer can picture his face despite the POV used.  Of course, the narration is distinctly noir as the movie develops.  I love the connection between Bogart and Bacall.  This surely creates the dynamic which allows the film to resonate among its viewers.  Honestly though, I do not sense a huge noir feel to this film. Narration, men with hats, flimsy shallow criminal characters, and the great Agnes Moorehead, but otherwise what?  Ok, a wronged man and some creepy characters, but we have two characters who end up together in that Hollywood way that is anti-noir to say the least.

 

Things to love about the film--Bogey/Bacall, San Francisco views, the death scenes where characters fall from heights

 

Don't get me wrong.  This is a film worthy of watching, but it seems to lack the same angst and near total depression of so many of the classic noir films.

 

I thought the film that followed, Woman on the Run, had many more noir characteristics than this one.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's so amaizing to discover that a tecnique like POV was used so long ago, while i was thinking that it was contemporary... So so wrong! This is why i love film history.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a fan of the subjective camera approach to Robert Montgomery's LADY IN THE LAKE (1946), the opening of DARK PASSAGE, and indeed the first section of the film until Parry gets a new face, fascinates me more than the remainder of the story. The opening creates a tension that draws the viewer into the film as we await the complications that will arise for Parry in his desperate prison break. POV of this kind was not popular with studio executives who felt LADY IN THE LAKE, mostly, and to my mind, effectively shot in this manner, was a stunt that didn't work. It wasn't greeted with much enthusiasm at Warner Brothers for this reason, but Delmer Daves got away with it because it only constituted a portion of the plot, leaving us with a lot of Bogart and Bacall, one of DARK PASSAGE's main selling points. It would be used, however sparingly, in other noirs as a means of bringing us into the mind of the protagonist, along with the requisite voiceover narration to establish the scene and mood. That's where the opening of DARK PASSAGE serves in introducing us to a noir situation and prolonging the unusual set-up. Even after Parry, whose face is never seen except in newspaper photos, emerges with a new map (Bogart's) and name (Allan Linnell), Daves preserves the mood with well-lit and moody scenes that contrast with brilliant location shooting (the final battle with the slimy would-be blackmailer, well-played by Clifton Young). Subjective camera use can be traced back as far as 1934, when Edgar G. Ulmer used it (and Boris Karloff's voice) for an effective scene in the Universal horror thriller THE BLACK CAT.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Using first person in the scene makes us more invested in the character, takes away our judgment, and puts us in the position of being "on his side" from the outset. If it had been a simple camera shot showing him, we would be disconnected from him personally and forced to make judgments about his escaping San Quentin. Instead it puts us right in the middle of the action, concerned about what will happen next.

At first it is uncomfortable because we are not used to it, but when we start to hear his thoughts out loud, it really pulls together and creates the drama that would fall flat if we were watching objectively.

Nicely done.

I especially love the sign over the driver's head showing the directions to San Francisco and San Quentin as he hears the radio broadcast and he realizes who he has picked up. He stares at Bogey's character, but in reality he is staring right at us.  

Brilliant.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What has always struck me about DARK PASSAGE is the tension between the noir mood and its sunny opposite. The denizens of the noir world are often existentially alone, but here they can't seem to escape each other's friendly embrace.

 

Vincent is a lone, hunted animal as the story begins, but is almost immediately helped by Irene. His old friend George also assists him almost without hesitation. They both feel a strong connection to him, but Vincent is even helped out at first sight by Sam the cabby, and the shady Dr. Coley. Irene, George and Sam all proclaim how lonely and friendless they are, but in fact everyone seems to make human connections, even risky ones, at the drop of a hat. Even the hood Baker's malevolence keeps veering off into toothy, chatty camaraderie.

 

When Vincent hides in Irene's bedroom, he eavesdrops as Irene, Madge and Bob squabble over a tangled web of personal connections and obligations. At the bus station in the final scenes, he overhears a chance conversation between a hard-luck single mother and a down & out loner; by the time the driver calls "All aboard," they are practically married. Only the detective in the diner seems to offer Vincent no solace, but even he is at least polite. Only Madge (a wonderful performance by Agnes Moorehead), frisky but bitter and impulsive, seems truly an island.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, before I say anything I just need to state that the sound was not fully functioning on my computer so I couldn't hear the dialogue very well. I felt this was a truly successful use of 1st person POV, though I would have preferred entire first person. They left us in the barrel for a little bit while he took his shirt off and I would have liked the entire thing in this filming style. I also liked voice over in the head, which obviously needed to be done with the POV. I really liked the sounds of the police before seeing them. We're not sure what was going on but we know that we don't want the police involved. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The hardest job of any film is to immediately tease the audience with what is to come in its opening and to inform us about the setting and characters. As we've seen this week, each of these films has definitely gone about doing just that in interesting and innovative ways. Part of the allure of film noir is seemingly ordinary people and places overcome by darkness and menace. In order to thoroughly invest in that story, we need to be able to relate and empathize with the protagonist. In La Bete Humaine, we see the professionalism and short-hand of the engineers, becoming entranced by their world as the locomotive passes across the countrywide. In The Dark Passage, how does one relate to an escaped prisoner on the run after having been found guilty of killing his wife? We may get the story later of what happened but we don't want to bog the opening down in exposition. Simplest answer: we go on the run with him.

 

This is where the point-of-view shots become a golden opportunity. As we are in Bogart's shoes as he ducks and covers in his desperate escape, the tension and emotions are increased immensely. We feel the unease of being question by a passing motorist who gives us a ride. We are unable to break his quizzical gaze as he slowly figures out we are not what we seem. By the time we hear that this man was found guilty of murder, is it too late. We are one. We cheer as we beat down this interloper who is a threat to our freedom, immune to his cries of mercy.

 

This was a risky venture. Having Bogart alone as the escaped prisoner might have been enough to win enough audience sympathy to give this man the benefit of the doubt, but the choice to develop this relationship via POV makes for a more thrilling and intense experience. I own this film as a part of the Bogey and Bacall Collection, and to be honest I thought it could not get any better than To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep but this turned out to be my favorite of the bunch. I know I'm a little late but I hope everyone had a chance to see it yesterday or will grab the chance when it re-airs at a later date. It's well worth a viewing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The thing I like about the opening scene of Dark Passage is the conflict between hiding and running as strategies to avoid detection. In order to get out of San Quentin, Humphrey Bogart's character has to hide in a barrel. in the barrel, Bogart is hidden from view, but he is vulnerable. He cannot escape if he is detected. Out of the barrel, Bogart is free to get as far away from his pursuers as possible, but he is out in the open where he can be detected. We see in a lot of film noir this push-pull between hiding and running. The person trying to avoid detection (a fugitive, an escapee, the wrongly-accused) looks for a safe haven to hide out - but he cannot hide out forever, or he has merely traded one prison for another. I find this tension - whether to run or hide - in a lot of Bogart films. Which Bogie film pops into mind for you?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hm m m m  . . .  I'm not sure I liked the shifts in point of view, but once Daves established the first person point of view when the voice-over kicked in and the camera work moved along with it, it was fine—what would have happened had the director added a few seconds and had the main character peeking up over the barrel, the barrel tipping and rolling, and then our seeing the lettering when Bogart is out of it?

 

The interrogations  by the driver were very effective in building suspense. We don't really want to identify with the escaped, possibly wife-murderer, but we do and hope he survives that questioning (which he does, violently).  The voice-over is a good way to get the viewer into the story while maintaining the questions we have about who did what—he is not a fully reliable narrator because he has no distance or objectivity.  Some first person narrators do better than others (Fred MacMurry, for example, in Double Indemnity, even though we watch him bumble around, unaware of what any film-goer or fully mature human being) would know); but we don't know the situation, yet.  

 

The beginning of the film requires some extra-filmic information for us to make sense of it (how much an audience is supposed to know is always an interesting question)—even though we don't stop to think about it:  1.  We all know what San Quentin is (although we need a sign and some dialogue to tell us where, exactly, it is, which matters, here; 2. We recognize Humphrey Bogart's voice, and no filmmaker could pretend, otherwise—always a complication in movie-making.  We can see the remoteness of the setting, which is typical of film noir, but this is (at this point) a brightly-llt film; some of this is compensated for by the key-hole shots and framing when the main character is running away (who is seeing this?).  So we have typical noir elements, as well as the voice-over/first person point of view: remoteness, alienation, and here, the "key-hole" shot from inside the barrel.  Underlying these first-person noir films is the question of why the narrator is telling us all this—are we supposed to walk away from them knowing more, or knowing other, or eventually sympathizing with the narrator, or simply being reminded that nothing is what it seems to be, especially when we think we do. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hm m m m  . . .  I'm not sure I liked the shifts in point of view, but once the first person voice-over kicked in, and the camera work moved along with it, it was fine—what would have happened had the director added a few seconds and had the main character peeking up over the barrel, the barrel tipping and rolling, and then our seeing the lettering when Bogart is out of it.  In fact, the questioning by the driver was very effective in building suspense. We don't really want to identify with the escaped, possibly wife-murderer, but we do and hope he survives that questioning (which he does, violently).  The voice-over is a good way to get the viewer into the story while maintaining the questions we have about who did what—he is not a fully reliable narrator because he has no distance or objectivity.  Some first person narrators do better than others (Fred MacMurry, for example, in Double Indemnity, even though we watch him bumble around, unaware of what any film-goer (or fully mature human being) would know); but we don't know the situation, yet.  

 

The beginning of the film requires some extra-filmic information for us to make sense of it (how much an audience is supposed to know is always an interesting question)—even though we don't stop to think about it:  1.  We all know what San Quentin is (although we need a sign and some dialogue to tell us where, exactly, it is, which matters, here; 2. We recognize Humphrey Bogart's voice, and no filmmaker could pretend, otherwise—always a complication in movie-making.  We can see the remoteness of the setting, which is typical of film noir, but this is (at this point) a brightly-llt film; some of this is compensated for by the key-hole shots and framing when the main character is running away (who is seeing this?).  So we have typical noir elements, as well as the voice-over/first person point of view: remoteness, alienation, and here, the "key-hole" shot from inside the barrel.  Underlying these first-person noir films is the question of why the narrator is telling us all this—are we supposed to walk away from them knowing more, or knowing other, or eventually sympathizing with the narrator, or simply being reminded that nothing is what it seems to be, especially when we think we do. 

 

Some have said the use of the subjective camera would have been better if the lead actor wasn't someone with a voice,  like Bogart, that was so familiar to the audience.    We know right from the start that the escaped convict is Bogart and therefore he wasn't guilty of his crimes.    But hey this film was designed as a Bogie & Bacall picture therefore making certain things, like the happy ending, clear from the start.    I'm still somewhat surprised that the censors allowed that ending  (did the B&B romance factor throw them off their game?).    Yea,  Bogart didn't murder anyone but as Marge said,  no one else would believe he didn't. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 Do you feel this film's use of first person POV in this scene was successful or not successful?


I did appreciate the first person POV technique for the scene.


-- How do you think the use of a first person POV added to the tension of this scene?


 Film noir always has a tension between known and unknown, so I felt the opportunity to be inside his head was an effective way to accomplish this. 


-- In what ways can the opening of Dark Passage be considered an important contribution to the film noir style?


Automatically the main character is in complete control of the screen. We only know what he sees and hears, we are not offered other clues in the surrounding environment. We are able to see the reaction of the man which is effective to increase tension in the scene. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the moment Bogart's voice is heard, we are a party to his assessment of the situation and plans to escape the police. This is no beginner. When he enters the car, his lies set him apart from the driver. Bogart is quick of mind, while the driver is not. Even when he knows what has happened, he waits until he is being beaten to engage his mind--or is mouth to plead. The one shot show the sign pointing behind the car as the way to San Quentin. The driver has heard the sirens and knows where he is on the road. Bogart enters in a t-shirt—that is extremely unusual in this time period. All the hints of problems, and he misses them. in this first scene, you can see that everyman stands no chance against a seasoned Bogart.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, I  felt like a spectator of the prison escape, then the change in film perspective made me feel like it was happening to me.  Very gripping introduction to this film.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I actually thought the 1st person perspective was quite successful... and for the same reasons it's successful in video games.  It connects the viewer to the action of the story, but keeps you from being too knowing at the same time.  Sure you could say that vicariously escaping prison makes the opening exciting, but it's also not being able to see this man that gives us a thrill.  Does he look like a criminal?  Who is he?  We learn his identity and his crime, but DID he (did WE) kill the wife?  The POV camera work keeps us moving around and is disorienting.  What the heck is going on?  Well... we have to watch more to find out.  Excellent opening.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The use of first person POV was very successful, partially because it did cut away at times to avoid total disorientation in the viewer and set up things like the barrel roll. The first few changes of POV, you seeing there was something in the barrel and getting curious about it really established the scene well in a way that films that stick more firmly to first person like say 'Lady in the Lake' have a hard time doing.  The experimentation also allows things like the shot from inside the barrel of the fleeing convict that aren't first person but add to the impact and unusualness of the scene and make you sit up and take notice of what could be a stock situation.

 

There was a lot in here that was very familar from the establishing scenes of a lot of first person video games where you are literally finding yourself in a new person and controlling their decisions and immersion in the character, and the voice over when it comes were very successful.

 

The POV adds a lot to the tension of the encounter in the car, while the voice over shows bogart's growing impatience with the scene and lets us know that something is going to happen we are left wondering when and what would be the trigger in a way we wouldn't if both characters were visible. We can tell the outline of what will happen but are waiting nervously for the actual events despite again the situation being a stock one that we have seen countless times.  Daves makes it novel again by his direction choices.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

POV, although very unique, places the viewer in a position as helpless Bogart inside the barrel. We all as viewers are at a distinct disadvantage, hiding, only to unveil ourselves, now at the mercy of circumstance. An interesting point of view.  The driver asking questions as though he knows something is amiss, yet does not have life experience in these dirty road side ditch exchanges. Bogart on the other hand is quite comfortable in this realm, in this particular live or let die scenario.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sucessful? to evaluate requires criteria.... I think the POV is engaging by virtue of being novel.

Intellectually it's interesting from a behind the scenes 'how did they acheive this on location' curiosity.

It's effective in creating an uncomfortable tension through being put in the escapee's position, but also it somehow created much more tension than other possible treatments of the scene when the driver of the vehicle keeps asking questions before the radio announcement and the escapee is revealed to be a murderer! Once the physical description of the escapee is given I'm unsettled by the decision to sustain the POV during the violence that follows.

The single viewpoint enforced upon the viewer once the POV becomes the sole shot used becomes confining in some ways and also very focussing - an interesting effect!

I agree with others that the recognisable voice.... complicates the sucess of the POV. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I never was a big fan of the first-person POV in cinema. I prefer to be a spectator when watching a movie, not a participant. :) However, it served as good vehicle for not immediately revealing the identity of the protagonist to the audience.

 

The convention of "The Jailbreak" in film noir: The distant wailing sirens; The desperate escapee fording rivers or streams; The shedding of the prison uniform... This has been done to death where it is almost a joke. The "barrel roll" was a nice variation though!

 

No matter how many times I see it, I am still amazed that people in movies actually stop to pick up hitchhikers along the highway who turn out to be escaped convicts!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
×
×
  • Create New...