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


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Love this film. Have seen it many times. Since I live in San Francisco it's fun looking at the shots of the presidio later in the film. The opening using pov makes me want to watch more to find out what Vincent looks like. Someone earlier posted that the guy in the car was so irritating. I agree. It makes you want to root for the convict!

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Like most people, a saw the first person shots as very mechanical. I assumed at first that this was an equipment limitation, but then I thought about it. What they were going for the slow deliberate movements of fear? He hides the shirt, looks at the passing police frozen in place, then gives himself a pep talk to take a risk. Even in the car, we know he's not looking at the back seat cover, but he has to hide why he's looking.

 

As for the visuals, I thought they did a good job of setting up the scene of an escapse. So once the broadcast came on the radio, it was only really giving us the information about the wife and helping move the scene ahead rather than trying to explain everything for us.

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So many things caused this clip to have a disconnect for me.  First off, that is not the area around San Quentin, nor does it look like pictures my family has from that time period (my cousin worked as a nurse there).  I also have to remind myself that during this time, people WOULD stop for hitchhikers near a prison, whereas now, there are signs warning against it.  The guy in the jalopy asked FAR too many questions, even from a conversational POV, and is just too observant except when it comes to something that could save his life.  If anything, both are too observant -- why would you comment on the fabric covering the backseat of someone's car?  Based upon this one clip, I don't know if this is a movie I'd watch because it's really hard for me to suspend disbelief; I would spend more time critiquing it.

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I've always loved "Dark Passage". It's engaging, suspenseful, frightening, and touching. I remember seeing this film for the first time when I was much younger, and being really wowed by the point of view shots from Bogart's perspective because I didn't know that a film could "do that". I had always thought a film always had to show the actor, and that the closest a film could get to a first person narrative was a lot of voice overs. "Dark Passage" certainly proved me wrong. When I first saw it, I remember thinking it was the most innovative, brilliant thing I'd ever seen because I'd never seen anything quite like it. I don't quite feel that way today, but I'm still very impressed by its visual mastery and boldness. The more times I saw it, the more I came to appreciate that this was not just a gimmick. The POV shots were an essential piece of the storytelling because we're not supposed to see what Bogart's character's face really looks like until much later in the film.

 

Seeing the opening again, I still think it's as engaging and suspenseful as ever. To me, the highest point of tension is when Parry (Bogart) has just gotten out of the barrel at the bottom of the hill and is pushing the vegetation aside to see the police motorcycles drive past. Seeing this strictly from Bogart's perspective also means that we have no way of knowing if the police can see him. This moment had me squirming a little, wanting to tell him to keep hidden. There's no shortage of tension in the part when he hitches a ride with the stranger who proceeds to ask him rapid fire question about his appearance. Any moment now, the viewer thinks. Any moment now this guy is going to put two and two together and realize that this man escaped from prison. And sure enough...

 

"Dark Passage" has a great opening as a Film Noir. It's a suspenseful, engaging opening that certainly compares favorably with the other films we've looked at. Like "The Letter" and "La Bete Humaine", it is very fast paced and leaves the audience wondering where the film is going to go from here, and like "M" it has a very troubled atmosphere that leaves the audience with the feeling that no matter where this film goes, it's going to get worse before it gets better.

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"Dark Passage" is one of my all-time favorites, I remember the first time I saw it, I was blown away by the creative use of first-person camera angle. Of course, it's not just a camera gimmick, but an important part of the plot (I don't want to give away any spoilers). :-)

 

I love Bogart's narration in this scene, it really captures his frantic state of mind and matches when the camera is panning around, watching the motorcycle cops drive across the bridge.

 

If you enjoy the movie "Dark Passage" I'd highly recommend reading the book by David Goodis, it's one of the few book-to-movie adaptations that works really well, in my opinion. (Usually I love the book and hate the movie, or vice versa, but I loved both "DP" book AND movie.) The book provides a lot of explanations and details about the relationships that were hinted at in the movie, but didn't really go into full depth.

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Not only are the first-person POV shots a creative choice, but they function to serve the story as well. Since Bogart's character must undergo plastic surgery later on to hide from police, the director uses these shots in order to hide what the character's face looks like pre-Bogart.

The chosen POV reminded me of a video game, which was interesting. The shots establish our place as an audience right with Bogart; we gain information when he gains it and discover what concerns him (such as the way the camera turns and looks directly behind the car as they begin driving).

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I own this film and have seen it many times.  With this in mind I think its a little easier to decipher the nuances of the filming.  First, the opening sequence is absolutely deliberate!  In fact, I think this is the only movie I have ever seen that actually works in first person.  What I can't decide is whether it is because of the black and white nature of the film or the choice that the director made in angles but if i had to guess it would be the later.  Bogarts character needs to be hidden from view it adds suspense and brings us to the creepy, quack Doctor in the next scene.  Which by the way, is my favorite scene in the movie...

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It's taken me several viewings to get used to the first-person camera of this film but I kind of like it now. However, it amuses me that the photos of the "former" Vincent Parry in the newspapers are photos of a different actor whose features do not resemble Bogart's in any way-of course that's supposed to be pre-surgery but the surgeon says he's going to leave the nose alone and the other guy's nose is not like Bogart's nose!

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I also had to adjust to the first person POV. However I think it does work in drawing the audience into the action without a great deal of exposition. 

 

The tension is ratcheted because of this and I think that the opening scene really does  a lot in setting the tone of the picture. We also get bogart's character pretty quick as a guy who will do anything to escape.

 

The POV also helps bring the nastiness and brutality of car scene to a critical head. It establishes pacing and also helps advance the story.

 

The POV does, I think add an interesting dimension to the film, making it something different from wheat we have seen. 

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The POV attention getting opening scene is well attention getting but it feels experimental and not fully developed. This dramatic approach remains for a good part of the movie and to some degree throughout the film but nothing on the scale of The Lady and the Lake. I admit I haven't seen the film for a while so I will view again to see if my initial impression (waste of time full of plot holes & a ridiculous climax scene) remains.

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The first person POV works very well.  By narrowing the focus for the audience Delmer Daves not only controls or limits the wandering eye from what we are seeing but combined with voice-over narration we are being told exactly what the Bogart character is thinking.  Even with all this controlled direction the tension factor is very high with the background sounds of police sirens and the close ups of the driver becoming more suspicious in each frame.  This is a roller coaster ride and even though you know it will start at a certain point, do a lap then end where it began, it's the ride that gives you all the thrills and that's what I feel Daves was orchestrating in this film.

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The use of the first person POV in this clip from Dark Passage is innovative and adds to our tension in the way that we never see the face of this murderer. Like in M, only the shadow of the character is revealed in the beginning clip and we are left wondering about the criminal's identity. Here, we not only don't know the face of the criminal, but it could also very well be us. It's us tumbling down the hill, it's us riding shotgun in the car, and it's us punching the daylights out of the driver. What better way to develop sympathy for this criminal than to make us part of him. It's uncomfortable at the same time. We don't know what we might say or do next. We are not only completely in the mind of the criminal, but we are actually part of him.

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You haven't seen the full movie yet, have you? trust me, it will make sense why we don't see Bogie this early in the film.

No, I haven't seen the full movie yet, but the opening sequence should be smooth and not contrived, no matter what the rest of the movie plot holds in store for me.

 

In spite of this, I'm looking forward to seeing Dark Passage. I'm a Bogart fan.

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The use of Vincent Perry's POV in hte opening of Dark Passage, would be considered a successful experiment. Daves doesn't stay in the POV until, Perry gets into the car. Until then, the POV is intercut with shots of Perry  running thorugh water, and bush. The audience now knows they are seeing what Perry sees, and sets up the sequence of Perry in the car. Intercutting is no longer needed.

The POV helped the tension, but the tension didn't start until Perry's V.O. Added with the drone of the siren form the prison and the sirens from the motorcylcles, the tension has been raised. It is tempered a bit during the ride in hte car, but Daves keeps it there by the driver asking pointed questions and Perry prettending to look at the scenery  and the seat covers but actually checking if he is being chased. The tension is amped up again with the radio announcement and the driver pulling over. We see recognition and fright on the drivers face, as well as the road sign in the b.g. telling us it is 11 miles to San Francisco (Perry still has a long way to go).

The use of the POV is not a gimmick. it actually enhances the story.  More than a few modern "directors" haven't grasped this (Camera moves are to enhance the story, not used just  because it can be done).

The opening (not just the POV) will contribute to later noir films in that a continuous shot could be used for the car ride ( It isn't, but the one shot scene will be used in Touch of Evil.)

 

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Daves does not go entirely first person, which is why this scene works. He knows what he is doing and is certainly one of the unsung masters of the forties and fifites. We know Bogie is in it and we already have an image of him, yet the suspense he initiates here works very well.

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No, I haven't seen the full movie yet, but the opening sequence should be smooth and not contrived, no matter what the rest of the movie plot holds in store for me.

 

In spite of this, I'm looking forward to seeing Dark Passage. I'm a Bogart fan.

 

Sidenote first: This board has been incredibly civil and polite, and I do not want to give the impression that I'm trying to be rude. I'm not trying to challenge any opinions or say they're wrong. If this opening didn't work for you it didn't work, but I love discussion so I'm gonna give my opinion now.

 

I don't find the opening to be any more contrived than any other film. All films are contrived, in that they show you only what the writers/directors want you to see. They give you only as much information as they want you to know. A question you can ask, along with 'why is this in first person?' is 'why aren't they showing Bogart?' Because you're right, Bogart was a big draw that people wanted to see. Why not show him? The movie has its reasons, and the confusion that comes from the POV shots are, I think, intentional.

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While the first person POV works in this clip--you get the feeling of escape, tension, and anxiety--it gets a little tedious to watch the majority of the film this way. As a viewer, I want to see the interplay between Boogie and Bacall . . .

 

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I do like how first person point of view was used in the opening scene. You experience what Bogardt's character is. It was very realistic. Seeing the cops zoom past while hiding in the bushes, coming to the road and looking at which way to go, and riding in the car when the announcement came over the radio added to the tension and excitement of escaping from prison. The choice to use first person POV was an excellent one here.

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"I've gotta start taking chances." Terrific line. As if he hadn't already been taking chances up to that point--the killing of his wife, the escape from jail. I love how the car stops right in front of a sign that points to San Quentin in the opposite direction the car was traveling, just as the radio alert was happening. The POV is a terrific device to immediately invest the viewer. There's a certain level of personal fulfillment offered to viewers by allowing them to be this character for a moment--someone they typically wouldn't be (a killer), which forces a different perspective and ignites intrigue.

 

One of the aspects of film noir that I love is all of the questions that are immediately put into play from the very early moments, and this film does just that. Who is this guy? How did he escape? What's in San Francisco? Will he get caught? What's going to happen to the driver? etc. etc. etc.

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This scene hooked me when I seen it for the first time years ago. After seeing this I always wondered why somebody hasn't made a whole movie with this POV camara. Looking back I see how hard it would be to pull this off for a whole film. Still think it would be an interesting experimental film to see.

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I am not a fan of this film's opening. It is to "pat", too contrived.

But, the film noir mechanism that I do like is the use of "moving to an

unknown destination or fate". Undisclosed destination is a great film noir

contribution to motion picture story telling. The viewer is not going to

go to the candy stand or to his frig for a beer until his curiosity is satisfied.

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Ah...Dark Passage! One of my favorite noir films of all time; even better, it was filmed in my hometown. I love seeing San Francisco in the 1940s.

 

We don't get the first person POV until after he emerges from the trash can. What I like about his emergence is the encircling of his character. I can see this two ways: It's almost like a spotlight on him especially since he is being pursued by the authorities. The second way, which is the strongest point for me, is a metaphoric rebirth of his character. He emerges from darkness to light much as with all living mammals that pass through the birth canal. It's especially poignant that he emerges into a naturalistic environment. Of course, this is reaffirmed with his upcoming actions further in the film (I won't spoil the rest of it).

 

Once we establish the first person POV, we become his character. We, literally, see through his eyes. We also hear his thoughts. We run the same emotions as he does: the fear of being discovered, the paranoia of looking past our shoulders and being asked too many questions. Will we be "found out"?

 

As per its contribution to film noir, the most obvious is the voice over. This is the first of the daily doses that has it. This is a staple of film noir. Another factor is the screen shot from the trash can. Using the circular shape to highlight the character.

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The use 1st person POV is very effective in conveying a sense of desperation. How would he know he wouldn’t be killed when he flung the garbage can off the truck or that he could elude the police that were just behind him?  We see the expression of the man who picks him up as he is looking him over. It makes us as uncomfortable as the character Bogart is playing it draws us in and puts us in his shoes. As one of the first use of 1st person POV for most of the first half of the movie we become one with the character we don’t know if he is guilty but we are still hoping he will come out OK.

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