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


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I think some of the first person POV shots and action in this opening do seem silly and contrived, not really making the story more interesting. But, I also think sometimes looking back on classic film, or any art form for that matter, that used innovative techniques for the time, can seem silly in light of contemporary art techniques (think canvas painted blue, or urinal hung upside down, innovative and masterful right?) At the time this film was made, this sort of first person, POV must have given a new and interesting perspective for viewers. I do agree the punching was a little lame, but I haven't seen many classic films from this time where the fighting ever looks too realistic. 

 

I did like Bogart's inner monologue as he thought through the cops' next moves and how much time it would give him to disappear. I enjoy that now, in modern crime dramas, where in a similar way, the highly intelligent investigator/agent/former criminal breaks down his thought process while looking over a crime scene, escaping danger, etc.

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This really made you feel as if it were happening to you.  The inner monologue was realistic-- I imagine you would be talking to yourself in such a situation to keep yourself calm, and on track.  The punching scene was realistic and shocking, and I was very uncomfortable, as it felt as if I were responsible for doing it.  I wrote once before that I felt that film noir has alwas seemed to me to exist in a space separate from my reality.  This opening certainly solved this problem!  I haven't seen this Bogart film-- have to make a point of seeing it.

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This is my second time trying to post to this message board, and I've lost everything I've written, so to start over and paraphrasing my own post -  this is not my favorite Bogart film.  I saw it some years ago and didn't like it then.  The first person POV was annoying to me. I would rather have seen his face, his expressions, his eyes.  To me, we can learn a lot from a character's facial expressions.  So to answer the first question, the POV was unsuccessful.  It didn't add any portent of tension to the film, other than he escaped from San Quentin (actually, Cagney did too) and he punched out the driver who picked him up.  Someone above mentioned that it started in third person, which I agree with.  It's not until Vincent takes his prison shirt off in the tunnel that it switches to first person.  When I first saw it I thought that Bogart was sick, but since low budgets are an element of film noir, it makes sense if another actor does the action and Bogie does the voiceovers.  At the time, Bogart and Bacall were top earners, so this, to me, is a gimmick to keep the budget down.  Sorry, but I didn't find the POV adding to the tension.  There was not the low key lighting that we saw in the first three clips and doesn't come close to the tension and foreboding that the opening scene from "M" gives the viewers.  My apologies to the filmmakers.  

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First of all the driver was really asking for it with the 20 questions bit. Who asks a hitchhiker a perfect stranger all that personal stuff? Hope he gets it good.      

The POV was successful for me because it gives a sense of mystery about the escaped convict. Before the radio broadcast he is a prisoner but for what degree of crime? The POV had me thinking about it. 

The tension POV added to the scene was like I said before added mystery to the scene. We haven't seen the mans face yet and when he hitches that ride then towards the end of the scene we see the road sign with direction arrows to San Quentin /San Francisco and the added radio broadcast, stuff was bound to happen.

I think the contribution to film noir style is important because I think it generally brought the ambiance of noir. I was aware of the impending doom for the driver and if this opening scene is any indication of the the movie I'm not expecting see a "Riding off into the sunset." ending.

 

The driver also got on my nerves. I wanted to punch him too. Who asks a hitchhiker a million questions.. GEEEZ

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Dark Passage begins so masterfully. The viewer has no choice but  to experience Parry's rocky escape. The camera keeps you captive. It bonds you with Parry. You are in his skin, in his eyes.

 

The irritating guy who picks Parry up probably set hitchhiking back a couple of years. As some have observed, he deserved a good punch. (Spoiler) He reappears and that is worth price of admission. 

 

I love the irony of "Dark" Passage beginning in so much light, aside from the bleakness of the barrel and the drainage tunnel.

 

As a writer, I enjoy creating conversations in the head of my characters. So to with this film. The step by step extrication by Parry is enhanced by the voice over.

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I've already started paying more attention to everything but the actor.  I noticed that the scenery switches back and forth between "live" and "studio background" while the men are in the car.  Poor Clifton Young always plays the role of a creepy, slithery, low-life.  As soon as he appears on the screen it's, "uh-oh, look out".

 

Interestingly, when watching this movie with my mom (she was the person who weaned me on old movies), she actually remarked that the hands didn't even look like those of Humphrey Bogart.  Watching it every time since, I try to scrutinize them.  In some scenes, they seem very hairy and in one in particular, they seem way too young and muscular and don't seem to match the rest of him.  The feet seem heavy and also don't seem to match his slenderish physique.

 

The POV is interesting.  I don't particularly care for it although it certainly does offer a different perspective on the action.

 

This has been one of my favorite movies for many years!

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

 

Yes, I feel that this film's use of first person POV in this scene was successful. I feel it was successful because it allows you to see the escape through the eyes of Humphrey Bogart's character Vincent Parry.

 

 

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

 

Yes, I feel that the first person POV added to the tension of this scene because it makes you feel anxiety of the character and the tension of him trying to escape.

 

 

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

 

I feel that the opening of Dark Passage can be considered an important contribution to the film noir style because it's cinematic use of POV allows the audience to get inside the head of the character instead of just watching the events unfold on the screen. 

 

To me, this allows the audience to be somewhat active and it draws them into the world of the film noir style.

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Though the POV might feel like a gimmick at first, it quickly becomes a significant tool for film noir's ambiguous allegiances. Parry is clearly identified by the driver after the announcement on the radio. What must he do to escape? As an audience, we might feel his best course of action is to run and, because our sympathies lie with him, we hope he will. This is the power of the POV. An audience might hope for something and so feel as if they are the character in question. But Parry does not run. He throws repeatedly heavy punches and does so over the pleas of the unwitting victim. The audience is not Parry. But Parry's violence is embraced by us even as we fear it and know that we would never engage kindness that way ourselves (no matter how irritatingly curious that kindness might be).

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I have to say that I don't like the 1st person POV used in the opening (though I admit that I'm not terribly keen on the film period, so that might color my view) as, to me, it's just a way of avoiding having to somehow dub Bogart's voice on to another actor until he has plastic surgery later in the film, when the whole thing reverts to the typical 3rd person viewpoint. Sorry if this is a spoiler to anyone who hasn't seen the film! 

 

And I think the device of using a 1st person viewpoint - whilst it may be useful in video games - really limits film as it inhibits the viewer from really getting into other character's heads, limited as you are to the viewpoint of the participant. 

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The POV increases our identification with Vincent Parry - after all, all we know about him at this point is that he has escaped from San Quentin.  Since we see the world through Parry's eyes, we have a stake in his successful escape.  We are annoyed by all the questions from the driver of the car because we are afraid of being identified as an escapee, and we are in favor of punching him after the bulletin comes on the radio because it seems to be our only way out.

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The irritating guy who picks Parry up probably set hitchhiking back a couple of years. As some have observed, he deserved a good punch. (Spoiler) He reappears and that is worth price of admission. 

 

I couldn't agree more!  I wanted to punch him out way before Bogart got around to it.  Possibly because the filming POV made the experience so much more personal than if they had shot a two person medium shot, we became even more aggravated  with this character!  

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While I appreciate what it takes to film first person (POV) sequences, as in Over a Barrel (Dark Passage), I am generally not a fan.

 

The Lady in the Lake (1947), for example, used this method throughout the whole movie. I found it tiresome.

 

I enjoy watching actors emote. Sometimes facial expressions, even without sound or action, can be very powerful....the audience can "get the message" and connect with the character just as easily.

 

Even though this sequence left me flat, I did, however, relish Bogie giving the slimy driver a few good slugs. I felt as though I were right there with him.

 

Notice the lingering shot on the backseat upholstery...what about a hint that this vehicle will figure in the plot later? Even Bogie had to weigh in on the fabric.

 

I would venture to say that this opening was not successful for me. Experimentation in film is important, though..keeps us on our toes as film lovers and movie goers. There's nothing worse than a boring movie which leaves you with nothing to discuss at the end.

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The opening scene was quite interesting to me. It made me very curious about what would happen next. Bogarts grip on the container as it bounced up and down was a nice touch and made me want to see how he would escape. The entire opening scene including the sounds of the sirens, the container bouncing down the side of road and the very inquisitive driver increased my curiosity and anxiety towards the faceless Bogart.

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Having just watched this film, the first person POV is not only an intriguing way to make a film but also a necessity in this scenario.  I was concerned they were going to use this camera angle for the whole movie because it does get old after while.  But to begin the film this way works.  Several of the clips we've watched begin the action right away, there's not much in the way of build up and I like that excitement.  You are frantically trying to answer questions you have as the story moves ahead at a fast pace.

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I feel that the POV cinematography is jarring, not only because of the tense situation (the driver is, after all, really annoying), but also because it undermines the very way we're trained to watch movies. Come to think of it, it undermines the conventions of visual representation in general. Whether in paintings or movies, we're accustomed to the drama playing out before our eyes. To have the fictional characters address us personally is a but unnerving. Interestingly, it takes a medium built for mass consumption and, in a sense, personalizes it, in the sense that each viewer is placed in the film (be it in the form of an absence) for him or herself. The protagonist, thinking in terms of Gestalt psychology, is in most cases the figure who attracts our attention and around whom everything else in the filmic world arranges itself; however, in this case, the protagonist becomes a nothingness. Perhaps this is another reason as to why this scene is so jarring.

At any rate, it's an interesting experiment, one that hearkens back to film noir's Expressionistic origins, which sought to both alter the way in which viewers perceived the world and how they thought about artistic representation. The effect is indeed strange, as the camera both mediates our experience and perception while at the same time insisting that placing us within the first-person perspective. While we see things through his eyes, we are limited to the camera's movements. It provides interesting insight into the phenomenology of art

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The one thing that I absolutely love about film, is how fast the technology has advanced in the genre... If it wasn't for this course, I would have never learned that the first use of POV (true POV) was used in this genre of film. 

The use of it is what you see used, commonly in everyday life, but to see it first used, and in such a way, was amazing. Things like that I love.  

It added tension because all you see is Vincent escaping, and nothing more. You see the cops speed by, you see the attempt to hide a shirt, and just trying to escape up the border... Tension was also added when the guy who gave him a ride, was asking him all the questions. Cause, that's when you start asking, "What did he do?" And once it's answered, you almost want to get out of his head.

 

The importance of this use of camera work was to put the viewer "in" the movie, by being put "in" the character. It hides you from the emotions, or lack thereof, of the character, and it give you just a small glimpse into his mind. Just enough to keep you at bay, but also, just enough to make you want to get out. 

This is a great opening, and a great addition to the genre. I love learning all I can about film. 

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I feel like the use of the POV was very successful to the point where you had empathy for Parry after all he  was doing life sentence for killing his wife. I also felt like the driver was too nosey and deserved what he got. It was an interesting choice of film that I feel is a viable contribution to film noir..

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The opening of "Dark Passage" was indeed tense!  I had to stop it at 3:00 and catch my breath! The POV was certainly effective though I don't know how it would work in film today. With this POV, the viewer becomes Bogie, takes on the guilt for his crime  and and is hoe for escape. As we stand in his shoes, long shots increase the tension: there is no looking away from the desperation and danger he is in.  And, though this is a noir film, it is shot in the countryside on a bright, beautiful day.  The open landscape and the lovely scenery are in contrast with Bogie's inner state.  Freedom is beautiful but will he be able to reach it?  The open land and the sunlight seem to taunt him with the beauty of freedom while offering no darkness or corners in which to hide.

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I feel that the POV was successful in that it let you see the reactions that others have to Bogie.  The guy that gives him a ride starts off as easygoing but becomes increasingly suspicious until the radio broadcast when Bogie beats him up.  Also, the use of the internal monologue was also successful in setting the mood.

 

Most important is the POV, while not used a lot it does seem to be effective in noir.  Also, this one was set in the daytime, which is a nice change.  Most everything is out in the open.

 

Paul

 

 

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While I appreciate what it takes to film first person (POV) sequences, as in Over a Barrel (Dark Passage), I am generally not a fan.

 

The Lady in the Lake (1947), for example, used this method throughout the whole movie. I found it tiresome.

 

I enjoy watching actors emote. Sometimes facial expressions, even without sound or action, can be very powerful....the audience can "get the message" and connect with the character just as easily.

 

Even though this sequence left me flat, I did, however, relish Bogie giving the slimy driver a few good slugs. I felt as though I were right there with him.

 

Notice the lingering shot on the backseat upholstery...what about a hint that this vehicle will figure in the plot later? Even Bogie had to weigh in on the fabric.

 

I would venture to say that this opening was not successful for me. Experimentation in film is important, though..keeps us on our toes as film lovers and movie goers. There's nothing worse than a boring movie which leaves you with nothing to discuss at the end.

With you 100% on this. It was Raymond Chandler's novels got me into vintage film and noir in the first place, but I couldn't watch that version of Lady in the Lake because of that viewpoint.

And here...why have Bogie if you're not going to see him: such a great actor? Obviously, the plot later in the film gives the reason for this device.

Also with you on giving the driver a punch: my favorite bit of the clip!! 

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This is my second time trying to post to this message board, and I've lost everything I've written, so to start over and paraphrasing my own post -  this is not my favorite Bogart film.  I saw it some years ago and didn't like it then.  The first person POV was annoying to me. I would rather have seen his face, his expressions, his eyes.  To me, we can learn a lot from a character's facial expressions.  So to answer the first question, the POV was unsuccessful.  It didn't add any portent of tension to the film, other than he escaped from San Quentin (actually, Cagney did too) and he punched out the driver who picked him up.  Someone above mentioned that it started in third person, which I agree with.  It's not until Vincent takes his prison shirt off in the tunnel that it switches to first person.  When I first saw it I thought that Bogart was sick, but since low budgets are an element of film noir, it makes sense if another actor does the action and Bogie does the voiceovers.  At the time, Bogart and Bacall were top earners, so this, to me, is a gimmick to keep the budget down.  Sorry, but I didn't find the POV adding to the tension.  There was not the low key lighting that we saw in the first three clips and doesn't come close to the tension and foreboding that the opening scene from "M" gives the viewers.  My apologies to the filmmakers.  

It is a bit annoying and takes some getting used to; for instance, I get notifications that someone has responded to a post and I cannot figure out how to find it! As to losing your post, however, it does autosave. Click at the bottom left of your post to retrieve.

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When I was working on my master’s, one of the classes I took was on late medieval illuminated manuscripts.  One thing the illuminators, especially the Limbourg brothers, were frequently fond of was partially or completely hiding a few of the figures’ faces.  My professor believed this was so the viewer could project his or her own ideas about the figures and their expressions onto the page.  In the opening of Dark Passage, I feel like the same thing is happening.  We don’t see Bogart’s face.  Therefore, we project our own ideas about what he looks like and his expressions on the screen.  The point of view shots put us in his shoes; the audience is the fugitive.  We can feel the anxiousness and tension Parry feels, especially when the driver starts putting two and two together.  One thing is that parts of the POV shots reminded me a bit of the hand-held camera shots Hollywood is so fond of nowadays, and those tend to make me a bit dizzy, even on a small Youtube screen.

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With this opening POV shot the director kills two birds with one stone. He has the opportunity to experiment with an innovative, personal shot which helps the audience identify with the still unknown leading character. At the same time, the POV shot seems to be the only possible way the plot could unravel, as the character takes Bogart's face after a plastic surgery. It would certainly be impractical to have another actor playing Vincent Parry until he changes his face, so it was the only alternative they had. Some way to combine artistic innovation with a plot device!

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Daves' use of first person POV cinematography puts the viewer right into the story.  You see and feel what the character is viewing. The use of narration of thoughts adds so much to the tension of the story line.The director's use of sirens, prison alarm and radio broadcast adds to the suspense. You cant help but wonder...how far will he go??/

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Although Delmer Daves may not be a household name these days, those who appreciate his motion picture direction will include works such as ‘3:10 to Yuma’ (1957), and ‘Dark Passage’ (1947). 


 


In the opening scenes of ‘Dark Passage’, we hear the familiar voice of Humphrey Bogart, but never his face. Why? Perhaps only for the simple reason that his character is shortly going to have his face transformed through the modern-day miracles of plastic surgery. 


 


Being an ex-con on the lam from the penitentiary in San Quentin, Bogie’s character, Vincent Parry, flies off a truck while in a barrel. As he goes tumbling down a hill, we see an interesting camera technique, to give the viewer a sense of rolling downward. It makes me think of how the rolling bowling ball scenes in the Coen Brothers’ ‘The Big Lebowski’ were shot. 


 


But back to Bogie and this flick. With such an identifiable voice, director Delmer Daves was easily able to pull off this first-person POV shot. We can see everything else, the countryside, the cops in pursuit, and the extra nosy driver who gives Bogie a ride. 


 


Surely, tension and interest are built up with the first-person POV angle, plus it makes it easy and natural for Bogie’s ‘Vincent Parry’ to have a new face: that of Humphrey Bogart’s!


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