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kevroy7

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

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  1. I think they could have worked the first 20 seconds of introduction more, i think we jump into the scene a bit too suddenly

 

The police sirens set the scene

 

the sequence is not a 100% done in first person perspective but the scene that is splaying itself out is quite unusual, seeing things through the eyes of our character adds another layer of confusion but a comforting one, for the character seems to be as disconcerted as we are

 

The barrel is used a a frame when he exits the barrel 

 

The bridge behind it gives us guidance on where he will go

 

The character taking off his shirt to cause a --- proves he is smart

 

frame used again by the leaves, we see civilisation beyond the water

 

The character's narration makes us get into his head but also lets us understand the scene better

 

The driver's questions makes us as nervous as the main character, we're now in the character's head

 

The scene in general has very nice natural lighting and i think the perspective works well

 

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I feel the use of first person POV is very successful in these opening scenes. I love it. A few seconds and you see and know where he came from, how far he has gotten already and how close to recapture he is in the form of the motorcycle cops. Coupled with the voice-over of his thoughts, I felt his fear and tension as he analyzes his options and decides his next move. Think quick. Decide. He has to take a risk and flag down a ride. Along with the escapee we closely watch the face of the driver and become aware that this ride is not going to work out.

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I remember the first time I saw this movie quite a few years ago on VHS tape from the library. Although I don''t remember much about the plot, the opening first person POV has stuck with me. I remember being really fascinated with it. It was probably the first time I had seen this technique used and I would say it was very successful. It seems to pull the viewer into the story in a unique way. 

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I think the POV was absolutely successful. I love being in the character's place, it gives you different view of the story and makes it a lot more intense. I think this contributed to Noir because not a lot of movies were doing POV at the time and this opened the doors.

I agree, I also think it is the most successful use of POV, I find POV in modern movies very distracting, but they got it right here and not too bad in other Noir films.  

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I've always had trouble with the POV in Dark Passage--and I think a few others on this forum have found its use in Lady in the Lake to be much better (and I didn't realize until I checked - they both came out in '47!). But for Dark Passage, it does help get it off to an unusual start that we're not expecting--why are we seeing it from this guy's perspective? Why aren't we seeing his face? We find out why later, of course, and Viola! it's Bogart, but still it's a device that should have been obvious even in '47. What I DID like was Lauren Bacall (of course) and the supporting cast: the backstreet plastic surgeon, Sam the taxi driver, and Agnes Moorehead in one of her more sexy (yes, sexy--and nasty!) roles: that scene when Bogart goes to her apartment with a box of candy? And though she can't quite place the face, she's about to crawl into his lap within 5 minutes--until it finally dawns on her who this handsome mug really is.

 

Research shows Lady in the Lake came out first, in April of '47; Dark Passage came out in September--could Davies have seen the popularity of that film and tried to work POV into his movie because of it? 

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

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

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

 

I was immediately drawn into the story from the excellent use of lighting and camera angles. The camera shot showing the escaped prisoner exiting the barrel and moving under the overpass (which gives the appearance of a tunnel to the viewer), the prisoner's hand shown on the wood of the fence and then again as it was waving to the driver in the oncoming automobile to stop - all of these things begin to draw the viewer into the intrigue of the story and helps to create the drama and suspense, We know not yet who the prisoner is (except that his voice is VERY recognizable to his fans) because we have not yet seen his face. This is not the first time Bogart was used from this POV in a film. Since we do not know yet who the femme fatal will be, we may not be able to qualify the film as noir at this point.

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The use of POV in this opening scene helps us to sympathize with Humphrey Bogart's character. I almost felt like I was the one rolling in the barrel, waving to the man in the car, and punching the man for asking too many questions. These shots help keep the viewer intrigued. 

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As an entire film, I like Delmer Daves “Dark Passage” but at times I wonder about the Bogart POV decision-making.  Yes, it’s novel, but is it actually better, or more effective than the standard coverage on both actors?  I always feel like I’m adjusting to it (which takes me out of the story) and it negates seeing any of the character’s emotions or, for the most part, their physical actions.  If you're an actor, do you want to be in a POV movie?  You're hanging your hat solely on your voice.  Also, in terms of how he looks, there’s no great surprise when we finally see Humphrey Bogart.  Audiences knew Bogart and Bacall previously from, “The Big Sleep” and, “To Have and Have Not.”  The movie really shifts gears when the bandages are removed but, it's more a feeling of relief that the experiment is over.  Agnes Moorehead is fantastic in the movie.  IMO, she steals the show.  Similarly, I also like, “The Lady in The Lake” and, again, I’m always conscious of the POV style.  POV shots are a great part of film grammar when used in conjunction with other shots.  Look at Hitchock’s use of POV in, “Vertigo.”  Brilliant.

 

Thanks - Mark

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I agree with you about the POV working better in Lady in the Lake. Although I can understand the usefulness of having it for a good chunk of the film (until after we see the big reveal of Humphrey Bogart's character having plastic surgery), it just doesn't add an element of mystery or suspense for me. I know who it is -- it is not a surprise. WIth Lady in the Lake, you really felt like you were in Marlowe's shoes, blows to the head and all. 

Both POV movies are structured in such a way as to accommodate the POV device. I, too, like the POV from Lady in the Lake better as it allows the characters a slightly more natural way of responding to one another. Of course, possibly that is also due to the relationship between the actors/and their characters. The banter in Lady is lighter while at the same time seriously attempting to follow te clues to solve the mystery of the murder. In Dark Passage, for some reason, I cannot allow myself to fantasize freely about Bogart's excellent condition after rolling down the hill in the barrel, and how we are only exposed to the ease of his facial reconstruction. All I could think of was how he was able to avoid a staff infection from the surgery! Of course, antibiotics were new in those days...

THe only time in Lady that I felt that the mystery was less fascinating was when Robert Montgomery is revealed in the mirror. Sounds like some in our discussion have the same feeling for the reveal of Bogart's face. Perhaps in both the illusion should have been extended.

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In my opinion ,the opening of the scene ,it was boring and stupid!!. I don't know anything about cinematography, but the shots were the wrong ones .The idea of POV was OK, however; the result was bad. I can not even express with words the plot it makes nonsense.

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I find it interesting that others thought the POV wasn't used effectively here. I think that may be a by-product of us (unlike the audience at the time) having seen this technique used before and better. Plus the fact that Bogart's voice and face are both fairly recognizable to us.

 

I found it interesting that the radio announcement only told us that his hair is dark brown and eyes our brown. That doesn't really give us a good visual of him, so Daves' is sure to have the driver notice other aspects about his appearance: his strange pants and shoes. As I've said in other posts, I'm seeing a common trend in these noir clips that often it's what we don't see that's so unsettling. The directors like to leave the most important details (i.e. the people in the street during M) to our imagination, which is often worse than reality. And I think that was also a common trend at the time. The cold war, in essence, was all a by-product of our imagination of what the enemy could have or could be doing, rather than necessarily what they were doing.

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Usually I like the change in perspective of a camera angle when film uses POV. In Dark Passage I'm not

as sure. I'm less interested in what Bogart(only this one time and scene)sees,says to himself and does in the first few seconds escaping.

I do find it more interesting when he turns to the driver(C.Baker) and we see his face and emotions as the news broadcast breaks out with the news of an escapee and the realization that his hitchhiker is the one and only Vincent Parry.

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I think the use of POV does an effective job of getting the audience to feel the anxiety and apprehension experienced by Vincent Parry as he tries to make his escape. I kept wanting the camera to cut to a more omniscient perspective but it didn't, which worked, building the suspense. Personally, this kind of experimentation is one of the chief reasons I'm drawn to films noir. Despite the novelty of the POV technique, it does not feel forced, but rather perfectly consistent with the disorienting style of the genre.

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The seat covers.  The seat covers!!!  Those are going to make another appearance.  Yup.

 

The POV is very effective.  It makes the viewer sense the desperation of Parry and we want to know why we can't see him.  Great film noir "bait".

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It is difficult for me to reply strictly objectively.  Dark Passage is one of my all time favorite films and my personal favorite of the films that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together. 

 

The point of view in the opening sequence is further expanded as the film goes on.  The establishing shots are terrific, but the character is still a mystery in the few minutes we see in the opening shown.  Five more minutes would give a much more clear picture of where the film is going and what sort of characters we have. 

 

And in response to another post, yes, the seat covers that the film maker took such great pains to show us become very important later. 

 

Not to ruin it for anyone, but one of my favorite things about this film is that, in spite of the Hayes office, there is a death later in the film that has no punishment attached.  A rarity in the days of strict standards from the moral guardians.

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Very interesting opening, hands appearing on the rim of the drum. Once the drum roles down and comes to a stop, there is sudden darkness. Then you see movement and a man walks out of the drum.

the camera moving towards the seat cover, may be trying to distract from the conversation.

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This movie is interesting in contrast with Lady in the Lake (1947), a movie that tries to so completely identify the protagonist with the audience or the camera. The opening of Dark Passage is wrought with the troubling notion that the audience is identifying directly with something out of its control.  It is especially disconcerting knowing that you are identifying with a prison escapee about whom we know nothing.  The jarring effect is intended by the fact that it works too well, and that we are hoping for the protagonist's escape, a tenet of the moral ambiguity.  I was even hoping he would punch the guy who picked him up and who wouldn't leave him alone with all the questions. To me, POV is interesting because of the ways it actually fails to do what it is supposed to do.  Lady in the Lake is a widely recognized failure.  I think this is in part because it too easily assumes the complex mechanisms of identification an audience would have with the triumverate of screen/protagonist/camera.  Unlike Vertov's Man with the Movie Camera (1929), this sort of Lake "kino eye" is stuck to one perspective, and with the exception of montage, does not offer the new kind of seeing but a reactionary lens tethered to only the function of the human eye.  Dark Passage includes within its plot this sort of untethering from the POV to great effect. 

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Others have already commented about the use of POV shots in this and Lady in the Lake from the same year so I won't say anything more about that, but I will say that I liked the use of POV there and not so much here.  Maybe because Bogart is an icon, but I felt a bit irritated that they wouldn't show his face when we all know his famous voice.  Not the fault of the film, but there it is.

 

I loved the movie as a whole, but as someone else already said, it was certainly a relief when his face was uncovered finally.

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Others have already commented about the use of POV shots in this and Lady in the Lake from the same year so I won't say anything more about that, but I will say that I liked the use of POV there and not so much here.  Maybe because Bogart is an icon, but I felt a bit irritated that they wouldn't show his face when we all know his famous voice.  Not the fault of the film, but there it is.

 

I loved the movie as a whole, but as someone else already said, it was certainly a relief when his face was uncovered finally.

 

Well as Bogart himself said,  Jack Warner was more than a bit irritated that his biggest male star's face wasn't shown until the film was half way over.     But I don't see how the director could have shorten that by more than a few minutes by cutting out or reducing some of the earlier scenes.

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First person POV was undoubtedly succesful in this case. We can see what the main character sees and hear his thoughts (an inner monologue is another noir classic theme). He's a fugitive, afraid of being caught, but still determined and this adrenaline drives him. He seeks the way to escape, analyzes options, we can share this view and indentify more with Vincent. We start to feel his emotions, his tension like it was our escape. He covers his tracks. When he catches a ride we can observe the driver, who gets suspicious over his strange look and the tension rises. We know that this man might be in danger if he asks to many questions, but still we want Bogey to succesfully escape. So we have the first serious dissonance. Bogey doesn't want to get into more trouble and wants to get out of the car. Unfortunately, the radio announcer comes into picture and fate of the driver becomes rather obvious (a nice high-angle shot). We still undestand that it was a necessity. We love Bogey, don't we? ;)

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For those who hadn't seen "Dark Passage" and didn't like the first person POV or thought the opening was "gimmicky", I'd be curious to know if anyone changed their mind after watching the whole movie.

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Last Catch Up:  POV successful/not successful?  In both times I've seen it used (this and Lady in the Lake) there is an awkwardness to the acting and in some of the camera shots.  The actors in this  movie do better acting to the camera than the actors did in that other movie.  (Don't get me wrong, I love Lady in the Lake...and read the book.) Also, I couldn't help wondering if they used a double and Bogie was really over at the bar across the street....  This movie has one of the best dream? fantasy? sequences when he gets plastic surgery.  As a child of the Sixties, I really was impressed with the hallucinatory effects.  Anyway, once again, the opening makes the audience participate in the character's escape and feel the fear and anxiety of the character.  But I am glad the POV is only for half the movie, because it's actually Bogie with Bacall that makes this movie. Oh, and Agnes Morehead. She was terrific.  Think of it this way:  if B actors had been in the movie, would it have been just as good? 

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Loved the movie - but didn't care for Boogie's POV.  It didn't sound as though he were in the scene and I didn't care for the camera angle (my POV).  I loved Lady in the Lake also - but felt the same about Rbt Mgm's voice nor the way Audrey Totter "tottered" her head at the camera -uh I mean Rbt.  Besides, I'm one of those who wants to see the stars.  And, yes, someone was right about it not being the movies they were without the " A list" stars who played the parts.

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POV camera angles are not quite as accurate as actually seeing something with your own eyes, of course, because the camera is limited (no peripheral vision)...  I do not have to turn my head quite so emphatically and face something straight on when looking to the right or left of me...  (this is a noticeable difference for me when watching movies filmed in that way), however, because of this lack of peripheral, we are knowing even less about what is going on around us, which, I think, adds to the suspense.  The feeling I got was almost as though I was boxed in, with only a small claustrophobic view to what was happening, as from inside the barrel, only this "barrel view" continued even when I was out of it.  I got the same hunted feeling as Bogart's character surely had, as though I was straining, whipping about frantically to see who was coming and what my options were for escape.  When we watch in this way, we each get the chance to be him, with the benefit of someone else's commentary (Bogart's "narration" of different thoughts), which is definitely a repeated element in many film noirs.

 

And I'm with Bogie.. what a nosy guy!!!  

Unlike-able.  I'm on the side of an escaped con, not only because he is the first character I am introduced to and happen to be seeing things from his viewpoint, hearing his thoughts, but just from pure dislike of the other guy's analytical rudeness.  And I can't help feeling that that is how we are supposed to feel about this supposedly generous character who picks up a stranger along the road but proceeds to interrogate him.

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