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kevroy7

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

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Given that Vincent Parry undergoes major facial surgery it only makes sense that the director would use the POV approach. We don't see Parry's pre-Bogart face, and we don't need to. Not seeing it only adds to the mystery. All we can gather is that the new face is older than the pre-surgical look. "You'll look older, but feel younger."

 

We do see Parry 'pre-Bogart' face at least twice in the newspaper.  I have always wondered who that was.   Some studio suit? 

 

As for the POV approach;  yes, here it was central to the plot (unlike in Lady in the Lake).    I do understand why some people feel its use runs on too long but there weren't really many 'throw-away' scenes that the director could have cut out before we see Bogart in his bandages.    At best only a few minutes could have been removed. 

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The driver in Dark Passage sure asks a lot of questions! Although he doesn't, really. He asks a few. But by the time he's in the movie, the viewer's sympathies have been squarely planted on the side of the escaping convict. The sirens in the background keep the tension up and the viewer wants to get away. When the radio describes everything the convict is wearing (except for the shirt he got rid of) the important thing is the description. The fact that this man was arrested for killing his wife is almost an afterthought, because the thrust of the narrative leads inevitably to the convict (and therefore the audience) attacking the driver.

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The use of the first-person POV in this opening from "Dark Passage" is somewhat successful in creating the tension an anxiety of the escaped convict, but the director occasionally shifts the perspective to third person. The voice-over narration is helpful, though, telling us what the character is thinking. The feeling of riding on the back of the truck in the barrel and then tumbling and rolling down the embankment felt physically realistic, like perhaps the IMAX of its day! But I think that Delmer Daves needed to use this POV in order to get the audience to buy into the whole I-completely-changed-the-look-of-my-entire-face-with-plastic-surgery angle of the story. I found the use of the first person to have more of a point to it in this film than in the "Lady In The Lake", which was just an exercise in utilizing this technique.

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Dark Passage Opening Scene:

The POV scenes really get you in to the characters head buried successfully.

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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 think this POV style worked very well for this film, because Bogie's voice is so distinct and naturally gritty; perfect for a film noir narrative. We already pictured him, from his voice. So it was fun, waiting for the reveal that we knew was coming. At first, we are observing our escaped convict, going along for the ride, without consequence, but, perhaps the director wanted us to sympathize or understand his character better, his motivations; so it was not enough to be an observer, we had to see what he saw, "walk a mile in his shoes", so to speak. The "good Samaritan" picking this stranger up seems innocent and truly helpful, at first, but then he becomes increasingly annoying, asking question after question, until it becomes an interrogation it seems. I think that was a clever set up for justifying the beat down he got shortly after realizing that his hitchhiker is a an escaped killer on the loose. His curiosity turning into recognition of his description heard on the radio, that we still cannot see yet, is actually very juicy & intriguing. We are now sitting in the prime seats; the close up action & there for every blow Vincent delivers to the poor guy's face, & somehow, we want to participate, we are in the fight, helping him shut this talkative, nosey guy up, before he gets "us" in a pinch. See, we're in this together, an interactive action-filled scene, too fun. I was a gangster, for a few minutes at least. 


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I'm a big Bogie & Bacall fan, so Dark Passage is an old favorite of mine. It's always surprising to me how little known it is, to be honest. And I'm continually surprised that those who do know it don't seem to enjoy the first person POV as much as I do. I find it a novelty, and a really unique plot device in the story that let the cast and crew stretch their creative muscles more than was normal to make the picture work -- and I love watching the results of that creative thinking!

 

It's not the best noir example out there, and it's not even the best Bogie/Bacall example, but it is a movie that allowed artists to test the waters and experiment with new ideas, new concepts and new ways of approaching a moving picture, which essentially, is what film noir was all about. I think it holds an important place in the grand scheme of film noir, and in hollywood filmmaking itself, but is never quite given the credit for that that it deserves. 

 

Sure, it can be awkward and bungling at times -- but it also does a fantastic job of building the tension and making the audience feel as though they're in for a wild ride, with a wild character. Most detective stories were written in first person POV, so giving the audience that same experience and relationship with the character in the theater, letting them not only have access to their thoughts and actions, but also their eyes and perspective, now that was trendsetting; that was cutting edge. In short, I'm a fan! 

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The use of the first-person POV in this opening from "Dark Passage" is somewhat successful in creating the tension an anxiety of the escaped convict, but the director occasionally shifts the perspective to third person. The voice-over narration is helpful, though, telling us what the character is thinking. The feeling of riding on the back of the truck in the barrel and then tumbling and rolling down the embankment felt physically realistic, like perhaps the IMAX of its day! But I think that Delmer Daves needed to use this POV in order to get the audience to buy into the whole I-completely-changed-the-look-of-my-entire-face-with-plastic-surgery angle of the story. I found the use of the first person to have more of a point to it in this film than in the "Lady In The Lake", which was just an exercise in utilizing this technique.

 

Osfan, 

 

I completely agree! This narration definitely helps move the story along and give you a closer connection to the character. You begin to build an emotional tie to him, seeing out of his "eyes" and hearing his thoughts. It's very personal. And this film definitely had more purpose to the first person POV that Lady in the Lake. I do enjoy that movie as well (probably because it's usual) but it does seem rather pointless. Here there is cause and effect... the technique holds a unique position in the film because of how the storyline was written. Love your phrasing of it -- "an exercise in utilizing this technique." So true. 

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I really enjoy the first person pov in this movie, although I have to say that you don't really get the first person POV until after the barrel falls off the truck. I realize that was probably done because you need to set the scene so it's not really that big of a deal. I love how you really do feel like you're in his shoes and running from the cops. Filming the movie this way makes me feel like i'm in Bogie's shoes. I definitely think it adds to the tension of the scene- what could be more tension filled than running from the police and hoping you won't get caught? 

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I'm glad to see I am not the only one who thinks this film is underrated. I have loved this movie since the first time I saw it and find it even more interesting after seeing it in the context of this course. It has its flaws but is creative and entertaining.

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