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


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The use of the first person perspective was executed perfectly, in my opinion. Just enough, but not over done. It certainly added to the tension of failing to escape, especially when the driver began to ask too many questions.

 

Somewhat related aside- Bogie's likeness was used in an episode of "Tales from the Crypt", wherein he played a corpse through whom we experience the entire episode.

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I feel that the pov style works well with the story. True it is a bit awkward at first, but then it grabs you and doesn't let you go.


You empathize with an escaped convict, you also feel the suspense, danger and excitement elt while the radio announcer is describing the escape from San Quentin, and what Vincent Parry looks like. 


The Noir themes, and contributions, in those 4 minutes, are empathy with an anti-hero, suspense, fear and desperation.


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I'm always a fan of 1st person POV.  I think it's a great way to tell a story, and while it's harder in a film, it can certainly engage the audience in a way that isn't achieved by other methods.

 

I do think this use of 1st person was effective.  The audience feels the tension and the dire need to get away that Henry Fonda's character is feeling.  You're on the journey with him, so it kicks off the film with the audience rooting for him to escape.  At this point we don't yet know why, but we're sure it is a necessity.  Immersing the audience into the story through the use of 1st person was a clever way to set the tone.  

 

I'll admit it, my curiosity is piqued.  Now that I know he's supposed to be in prison for life because he murdered his wife, I would believe it is linked to that murder (of which I suppose him to be innocent). Granted, I've not seen this film before so I am simply speculating. I'll be interested in finding out if I am correct.

 

I did find it interesting that we saw him in full form under the bridge.  It did break from the 1st person POV in order to do so.  However, I did enjoy the shot from the barrel's perspective!

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I have seen this movie many times. I love the POV shot. It makes me feel like I am rolling down the hill too. When then driver starts asking the questions, I wanted to get out of the car before the announcer tells about the escape. 

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First person POV is very successful in the opening scene of Dark Passage. With the driver asking the questions, one can feel that Bogie is at his limit. The barrel rolling down the hill is perfect Film Noir with the dark open end.

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The opening sequence is a good intro to the story, and the use of POV is interesting but almost a gimmick. I was glad that later parts of the movie returned to the usual perspective.

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Unlike the previous three beginings, here the director for for goes subtlety and throws us into the deep-end of the pool, splash prison break. Besides the innovative use of the POV style, we also see some superb framing. Ultimately this beginings works best as Bogart rolls down the hill because we the viewer immediately identify with him. It would have been cooler had the voice not been Bogie's until the big reveal. I've always enjoyed this film, but it's noir-lite to me.

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Cool! I did not know about the "Lady in the Lake" movie, just finished the book a couple of weeks ago.

The movie does not even come close to matching the beauty of the Raymond Chandler book. Some movies --such as "Maltese Falcon" and "The Big Sleep" treat the written words of Hammett and Chandler quite well. Don't hold your breath for "Lady in the Lake"  ;-)

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The initial use of the POV gives the opening a rather disconcerting which not only helps heighten the tension and but by allowing us to be in collusion with the protagonist and creates a sense of unease. It's an incredibly effective tool that allows the viewer to get lost in the chaos of the moment, we are part of the action and as such cannot really see the character in the rather unsympathetic light we should. 

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Having already watched to this film before, I know how relevant it is for the story that we can't see Humphrey Bogart's face and that we only have access to his voice: in fact, we don't only listen to what he says but also to what he thinks; we are litteraly in(side) his head. However, the opening of the film still feels fresh and powerful to me, regardless of my previous knowledge of the course of the action. 

 
In this sequence we can recognize some film devices and techniques that were already used in the other opeing sequences analysed during this first week of the course, but in Delmer Daves's Dark Passage, these techniques have been taken to an extreme virtuosity and strong visual impact: the film's beginning already in an unstoppable movement, the unusual POV shots linked to dubious characters in unusual situations, the paradoxical feeling that we (the viewers) have privileged acces to the action on screen, and that, at the same time, our understanding of it is being overtly limited and even manipulated by the film's director. 
 
The impression of seeing with other person's eyes is disturbing because it makes us feel the way he feels (his rush, his anger) without knowing why: we become accomplices of his flight even before knowing his reasons and/or motivations; when we realize that he is a criminal on the run it is too late to break the "fictional pact" we established with the character. Often in the film-noir genre, we get to empathize and to identify ourselves with anti-heroes of dubious morality and dark past, and the extremely experimental use of this type of POV shots makes this kind of empathy effect irreversible and even more effective.
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I love and own this film by using POV, you become the active participant in the story line.  You anre the one speaking to the characters and gauging if they are the enemy or not. POV also builds suspense by allowing the viewer to guess what the main character looks like.

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I'm sorry,but had I been around when this movie hit the theaters...I would have been with the other viewers throwing peanuts at the screen right from the start.

You don't take your studios biggest stars,and allow for experimental camerawork,like it's some cheap,poverty row studio B-flick. Samuel Goldwyn sums up my thoughts on this subject perfectly..."You can include me out."

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I'm more familiar with this film than the previous ones, being a huge Bogart fan. The pace of the scene is suitably frantic.The shot of the hands coming out of the barrel always cracks me up. However the opening takes the viewer from passive audience to active participant, and yes it's a gimmick, but an effective one that lasts , if memory serves, for about the first third of the movie because "Vincent Parry" isn't Bogart at this point. The driver challenges us with questions, prying for info we don't know, and is so annoying that it's cathartic when we get to punch him out.

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Daves' first person POV opening sequence is a master class in characterization, insofar as the viewer not only empathizes with the fugitive without having seen his face, but also roots for him to "start taking chances" and to get away.

 

Daves ensures that viewers are at one with this questionable protagonist when he puts us inside his head. Knowing that there is only 10, no 15 minutes before the police close in, we quickly identify with the man on the run as our protagonist. That he sounds like Bogie doesn't hurt, either.

 

Our emotional investment/manipulation becomes even more apparent when we find the inquisitive driver annoying: why can't he just be cool and drive? Why does punching him not seem to be the wrong course of action?

 

The build-up to coming face to face with our fugitive protagonist is successfully established by this first person POV opening.

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Please forgive me: I suppose Dark Passage might have appeared on Professor Edwards’ “Punch List”. Sorry… I’ll try to make it up to you. :)I promise.

 

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

 

I believe that the first person POV was successful in Dark Passage to the extent that it had the potential to help the audience experience the desperation that Vincent Parry (played by Humphrey Bogart) felt. Whether it fulfilled that potential I think it did to a certain extent. (Disclaimer: I have seen this film many many times because I love it so much so my reliability as an analyst may be compromised not to mention my lack of expertise as a film critic).

I guess there is a danger in experimenting in film, especially I think with first person POV, that it might appear gimmicky or worse, even funny, which would take away from the mood of the film that I believe the director,  Delmer Daves, was trying to achieve: a serious investigation of the mind of a fugitive from inside his head.   

 

I believe that the voiceover by the protagonist Vincent Parry was effective and logical to incorporate into the first person POV. Very logical! This was not a flashback voiceover, this was a voiceover in the present, which is very different from flashback. If a person has thought while under duress, there is the potential for emoting on a high level. Although some of his thoughts (interior monologue) heard in the voice over seemed somewhat artificial, I guess because I wonder how often thought not spoken is expressed inside one’s head. But I liked the voiceover very much, all other things being equal, I learned about his capability for desperate ingenuity, his logical analysis of what he had to do to succeed with his escape.

 

The first person POV in the opening scene wasn’t continuous at first. We see a barrel with “SAN QUENTIN” printed on the outside (establishing shot?) and two hands clasping the barrel’s rim from inside. The barrel falls off the truck and rolls down a slope, still in the third person, when, suddenly, we are looking outside from inside the barrel. Eventually the scene becomes all first person POV.

 

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

 

I believe that the first person POV, for me at least, added to the tension especially the moment Parry began to be peppered with questions by the driver: about his shoes, his shirt, why he wasn’t more sunburn even though he was wearing only a tee shirt, why was he headed to San Francisco. Even though I knew that Parry had almost certainly escaped from prison, I felt unease at the driver’s questions, not wanting him to know Vincent Parry’s or my identity since I was beginning to identify with Parry’s plight. The driver was looking at me, although I didn’t check out my clothing or feel self-conscious about what I am wearing. It was dread I felt, that Parry (and maybe me) would be found out. Maybe this identifying with Parry was due, at least in part, by the use of first person POV.  I guess I’d have to see this scene completely shot in third person POV to have a clearer idea.

 

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

 

I suppose that the first person POV may have certain limitations. In “Dark Passage” Daves used it to solve a problem (SPOILER ALERT) because Bogart’s character, about halfway through the movie, was to have plastic surgery to hide his identity, so we don’t see Bogart’s face until later. I guess this would make producers and studio executives nervous about having a big star hidden from view for such a long time. Not me though. Not in this film anyway.

 

By the way, I did see the film, “Lady in the Lake”, starring Robert Montgomery as Phillip Marlowe, which used the first person POV throughout the film. I liked the film, especially for the chemistry between Montgomery and Audrey Totter. The audience did see Montgomery looking in the mirror occasionally. I liked the idea because I hadn’t seen it in film other than in “Dark Passage”, and for "Lady in the Lake" it added to the humor—I considered that film to be more in the comedic style, especially the dialog between Montgomery and Totter.

 

It is possible that a first person POV might be tiresome if used throughout a film. If done well and used for discreetly in certain scenes, I believe it can be effective as I believe Delmer Daves showed in “Dark Passage”.

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In the beginnings of both M and Dark Passage the killers' identities elude us. Whereas the killer in M is introduced merely as a shadow, the quick jump of POV in Dark Passage allows us to become the killer. Save for a brief shot from behind and the radio description we don't know what he looks like but we are already wearing his shoes, thinking his thoughts, and especially feeling his emotions. The anxiety and fear are palpable. We have no choice but to hope that he escapes. Whether or not he IS in fact a killer as the news bulletin alleges remains to be discovered, but as an escaped convict the POV has made us become the criminal.

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The use of POV is mostly effective. It instantly puts you in the characters frame of mind. It probably would have been better without the Bogart narration but it's still a very unique way of showing a jailbreak. It still stands out today as a nice variation on this type of sequence. When he starts slapping the driver around its particularly effective at making the viewer feel uncomfortably complicit in the violence. Of course the POV also works for the story since eventually *spoiler*Bogart gets surgery performed on his face and only after that do we see Bogart's face which is the characters new identity.

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I believe the POV is essential because it allows us to get into the mind and the feelings of the main character. We are thrown immediately into what the film will be dealing with, we are feeling his urgency, we know how he escaped, the sense that the questions are unnerving him - the sense of how does he handle the situation from moment to moment.

 

It is essential to film noir because that style of film always makes you wonder why someone did what they did - why would they risk it all, are they so cold blooded that nothing bothers them or are they desperate and desperate people react like a cornered animal. I believe we wouldn't have later films at all without this sense of POV. I think of "Memento" for one - how would that have even been conceived without what happened in "Dark Passage".

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Oooooh!  I can't wait to see the rest of this movie. The POV of Bogart takes you right into the action.  I have never seen this movie all the way through.  There was another movie that used POV directed by and starring Robert Montgomery (The Lady In The Lake).   POV did not work as well in that picture as this one judging by the opening sequence.  The clip was very pristine and gave the impression you were right there watching the actors.

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I don't get the feeling from the opening scene that this is a film noir. Based on the opening, I'd expect to see another cops and robbers chase or prison break out story. But the POV makes the difference. It's successful because it pulls me in and makes me want to know what this man looks like. However, I can only take POV in small doses, which this movie handles effectively. Any more reliance on POV, for me, would be very frustrating as it was in Lady In The Lake.

The scenery and background are bright and sunny, not dark and shadowy. So it's a good thing I'm taking this course, I need to learn more about what makes a film "noir."

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The 1st person POV right from the start of this movie put me in Vincent Parry's skin, pants, and shoes.  I rolled down the embankment in a barrel, took off my shirt and hid it in the bushes as I watched the police motorcycles speed past, I hitched a ride and tried to be cool when the driver asked me a lot of questions, and I knocked the driver out when the radio gave me away. Now I'm thinking "I'm a murderer" and need to find out how it happened - am I really guilty of this murder or am I escaping because I'm innocent? The POV was very effective in making me feel that Parry's murder story is my story, and I feel sympathetic, hoping it will somehow end well for us. 

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I thought the POV was very effective--I liked the way we followed Bogart's line of vision from leaping out of the pipe to scanning the ground to then peering up above the the roadway. I think it also contributed to the attitude of panic and desperation as he was pulling through the brush and looking left and right to decide where to go. The tension was increased because you really only had a view of his hands, and they were agitated and grasping--again, very effective. I' have not seen the entire movie, so I'm going to infer the POV is for the opening only--that would be the only way to avoid it feeling contrived or forced. The voice-over set us up to see we'll have the expected cynical protagonist, but of course, I'm thinking there will be extenuating circumstances to his imprisonment--his gruff demeanor belies a honest core, something like that. 


 


The opening seems to hit on many characteristics of the genre--we can tell there will be flashbacks to explain the "real" details surrounding the murder, we have a desperate man who will certainly (I think!) be striving throughout to prove his innocence and/or find the "real" killer, context set for the audience to get enveloped in Bogart's struggle, etc. I have passed over this movie in the past, though I can't recall why, but I'm very enthusiastic now about getting the backstory and understanding how Bogart will rectify what I'm sure we'll learn was a wrongful sentence. The opening achieves exactly what a director would hope for any film

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The first time I saw this film I was annoyed by the POV technique. Seeing it again ......still annoyed. I thought it might add to the film, but realized it was just too much of a gimmick. I suppose that might be because of all the film noir I've watched over the years. I guess sticking to what's been proven to be successful is best. But, then again, this was a fairly new genre so trying something different was a bold move.

I didn't realize that the POV continued throughout! I commented that it would make it too gimmicky and feel contrived, so I'm curious now to see the entire film and be able to judge for myself. I now have the feeling, though, that I'm not going to like it as much as I did for just the opening scene.

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I wasn't wild about the first-person POV when I first saw the movie on TCM several months ago. But that may only be because I already knew what happens to the character later in the movie that made the use of first-person POV convenient. It seemed to me that the necessity of not showing his face drove the decision. It feels very gimmicky. That being said, the combination of the costumes, the SF locations (her fabulous apartment building still stands, pretty much the same as it was then), and Bogart and Bacall makes this one of my favorite films noir. As far as importance to the genre, film noir is littered with people in desperate situations, and we're dropped right into one immediately. Another great opening sequence to suck you in.

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In the opening of Dark Passage, Humphrey Bogart's character escapes from prison in a barrel. What makes this interesting is that the entire scene is shot from either behind Bogart or from his point of view. While there is a practical reason for this later in the film, it also helps the audience see the events from his point of view.

 

However, it also removes the key feature with which the human mind identifies others: the face. In doing so, it dehumanizes Bogart's character and emphasizes that he is still an anti-hero. The audience simultaneously identifies with him and is separated from him, establishing a conflicted tone.

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