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


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The first person POV in the barrel just made me dizzy...and the driver of the car had no effect...no tension except for the fact that Bogart character with his voice over was obviously an escaped convict which made the story that much more interesting to watch.

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Oh boy do I loathe wiggle cam, too. I have to leave wiggle cam movies. I get sick. i found a couple of web sites that warn which movies are in wiggle cam so you can avoid them, but nobody's keeping them up to date.

 

The pov works for me, tho it's not special effects by today's standard. It immediately makes you sympathize with the guy on the run. You have to. You're him.

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Dark Passage-one of the most satisfying films ever created within the noir genre.  This film satisfies the noir-fascinated enthusiast's every need for a walk on the dark side of film. In addition we get the added twist of the story told from the point of view of the main character.  The first time I saw this movie, one of many times since, I could not believe the director pulled it off AND we humble viewers get the added pleasure of Bogie and Bacall creating their one-of-a-kind steamy and sizzling electricity before us on the screen.  This film has it all!!

 

The opening sequence begins with poor Bogie taking a tough ride in a trash can down a steep hill.  A little artistic forgiveness is in order at this point to believe that he made it through this with all bones intact....however I'll take it.  No sooner do we realize that we are going to be seeing things from his perspective (and not see him at all!!!) than we also get the added treat of listening in on his adrenalin-laden thoughts as he attempts to reason through to a point where he can complete his escape and stay sane.  The desperation he feels is ingrained in the viewer because......we are him.....this technique was beyond brilliant and has the effect of making the viewer forget his/her own boring life and dull troubles for a while and enter the world of the dark side.  Over-the-top engaging.....it's truly like reading a great novel.

 

As we move on through this sequence, we see him move toward the road in hopes of catching a ride.  Every woman in the audience with that inner attraction to the proverbial "bad boy" wants to be the woman on that highway who stops to give him a ride.  Unfortunately, it's that bad boy wanna-be weasel who picks him up.  The questions he asks Bogie are not just questions, they are Bogie's own thoughts.....guilt, dread and desperation to get away clean, without question and escape the false imprisonment that he has lived under for so long and they are pouring out of the mouth of the weasel.  The sequence ends with Bogie's desperation overtaking him and he beats the weasel senseless....as he begins the remaining escape attempt which all viewers know is going to end badly, his savior comes to the rescue......what an incredible film. This sequence is only the beginning of a desperate and thrill-laden story.  We are given that flavor of abject fear and desperation early on and it persists throughout this incredibly well done film.   ........One of the best ever made.

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The use of the 1st person POV gives the viewer a chance to feel involved and become immersed in the movie. I believe that this technique was effective for a film such as this. We get to 'be' the character on the run. Later in the movie, we learn why this POV was necessary. In my opinion, I think the director made the right decision in doing this.

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I thought that the use of POV was quite effective. Yes it was herky-jerky but that was the point. Bogie just broke out of jail and was on the lam, trying to get away. A person in that situation is going to be moving from to and fro, nervous , antsy, suspicious and panicky all in one. This sequence is an apt portrayal of that state.

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LOL, my own post is a little more involved than these that I have read.  For me, this movie was a serious thrill ride from beginning to end.  I was drawn hook line and sinker into the desperate feeling conveyed by this man.  The wait to actually see his face was almost maddening the first time I viewed this film.  I was completely fascinated with this technique and thought it brilliant.  How did they pull it off?  I have watched this film many times over the years I have followed classic film and find that I am overwhelmed with the intricacies and incredible creativity of this film every time.

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This is one of the first films noir I ever saw (without the knowledge that it was film noir). I caught it in the middle and I remember thinking the POV camerawork was not a good fit for the film. Today, after seeing the opening scene, I still don't care for the first person POV and don't think it was successful. The use of first person POV is innovative in an of itself and besides the stabilization I do think it was done well (especially the change in elevation of the camera when Bogart is scaling the fence and entering the car).

That being said, I love that the film features internal dialogue and character to character dialogue! The audience gets both audio and visual first person, which is a great start to the movie and a great tool to introduce the story.

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Using the first person POV in Delmer Daves' 1947 film Dark Passage was highly successful and an important contribution to the film noir style.

 

I felt the immediate tension, fear, desperation and anger (at the driver for being so noisy) of Humphrey Bogart's escaped convict, Vincent Parry.  It was cool to feel that I was pummeling the driver and yet not actually do so!  Definitely a closet passive aggressor's delight!

 

The tension increased in the scene because I could not tell or advise Bogart/Parry on what to do and helplessly 'be' him or watch him proceed.

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-- Do you feel this film's use of first person POV in this scene was successful or not successful?    I think the 1st person POV in the scene is very successful, even if not immediately satisfying to the viewer.  The 1st person POV style creates a certain amount of tension of its own anyway.  In this case we’re visually introduced to Parry from the back as he staggers from the barrel, but we have to wait ‘till a bit later to see Parry’s likeness in a newspaper clipping.  Once we see Parry's face, we have a complete (albeit brief) frame of reference which helps legitimize the 1st person POV, and cleverly diffuses some of the tension the viewer feels by not seeing things from the 3rd party POV.

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

-- In what ways can the opening of Dark Passage be considered an important contribution to the film noir style?    Part of the Noir genre IS the tension felt between the players and the audience.  In many cases the genre features narration, which is another type of 1st person POV.  Having the camera as the eyes of the 1st person POV is just a way to freshen up the style!

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Although the first-person POV may have seen very inventive in 1947....I truly think the best way to get inside a character is through voice-over - to hear a character's inter-thoughts can change the viewer's sympathies. It is used incessantly in filmmaking today but still hasn't lost its appeal for me.

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Yes the first person view make the opening very successful. it draws the viewer into the mind of Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart). I now want to know, I have to know if his escape is successful.

 

Yes the first person viewpoint adds to the tension, drawing the viewer in to see what is next. First person view never lets you know what is behind you.

The opening contributes to the film noir style by immediately showing characters in a jarring, frenetic environment, where they don’t know what is next, nor are completely ready for what is literally around the next corner.

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Maybe it's just me, but this opening sequence struck me as more Buster Keaton than film noir. The matter-of-fact, eye level, first person POV and the outdoor settings and situations seem, like the early comedies, to have been carefully crafted, then shot catch-as-catch-can in the roads and hills outside Los Angeles. The police chase added a touch of Keystone Kops, and the shot of Perry coming out of the barrel reminded me of a reverse iris shot from the early silent era.  

 

When Bogart's voiceover begins, the scene settles into a film noir atmosphere, with deeper shadows and interesting compositions.  But the nagging thought that perhaps this was all a black humor goof held me through the entire scene.

 

I know the film; I've seen it many times.  The POV shots, the stark mise-en-scene, the nasty, suspicious attitude of nearly everyone the two protagonists encounter; it's a wonderful example of early noir.  I appreciate the technical elements and the bleak, cynical sensitivity of the performances.  The entire film is tight and very effective.  But I watched the opening three times and wanted to laugh each time.

 

 

This is the first time I've had this reaction. 

 

Maybe Dark Passage is such an iconic film it is now too familiar.  

 

Maybe it's elements have been copied and parodied and homaged too many times.  

 

Maybe I'm not well...

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I have mixed feelings about the POV. Once it actually started, it did add to the tension and urgency of escapee's plight but the transition out of the barrel and into first person felt odd. Because that POV started in the rolling barrel, the clip of him running out made it seem like there were two people in the barrel. It just needed a better or different transition for me. The POV worked well once he was in the car and especially once the announcement came on the radio. The driver's "well what do you know" came across as very threatening. I can't wait to see the rest of this movie.

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I have mixed feelings about the POV. Once it actually started, it did add to the tension and urgency of escapee's plight but the transition out of the barrel and into first person felt odd. Because that POV started in the rolling barrel, the clip of him running out made it seem like there were two people in the barrel. It just needed a better or different transition for me. The POV worked well once he was in the car and especially once the announcement came on the radio. The driver's "well what do you know" came across as very threatening. I can't wait to see the rest of this movie.

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First, I would like to say, Dark Passage is my favorite of the Bogart Bacall films though To Have and Have not (their first) and The Big Sleep (well-renowned noir) are more popular.

 

When I first sat down for the film, like the people in 1947, I was shocked to see that we couldn’t see Bogart until an hour into the film, he is the star. But the unorthodox point-of-view is more intriguing. Tension is added since we don’t “know” who we the audience are experiencing the film with, if he’s good or bad (he is an escaped prisoner) and the life-or-death experience of escaping San Quentin is even more electrifying. We see what he sees, know what he knows, nothing more or less, which gives it a greater atmosphere of mystery and unease. It was successful in my opinion.

 

In the larger context of noir, trends arise: violence, danger, tension, and an urban setting. Most of the film was shot on-location in San Francisco, very much an urban centre (used again in Bogart’s Maltese Falcon, one of if not the most famous noirs of all time). His character is supposedly a hardened criminal escaping from death row for killing his wife, but he is still our hero therefore his character is not as black and white as it initially seems, the grayness being typical of noir.

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The POV in the opening of Dark Passage is very effective.  I agree that the combination with the voiceover is particularly key in helping the viewer connect with the character.   I also like how they focus on Perry's shoes when he gets into the car...a nice nod to the POV.  

  

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I felt the use of the POV was interesting. Especially the scenes right after he leaves the barrel. In the car it was somewhat effective with us getting a good read on the drivers face and feeling the tension grow. 

 

Again we see a movie that immediately dives into the action. You immediately get a sense of Bogie's characters desperation.

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The opening jumps into right into drama with the dangerous escape in a barrel, emphasizing the danger with the point-of-view from the barrel, and the speed and disorientation that introduces.

The POV necessitates the character to talk aloud to himself to convey information to the audience, which serves the a similar function as a voice-over narration commonly used in film noir, except this narration is in present tense.  This also partially replaces what the viewer would normally get visually by seeing the characters facial responses.

The theme of a desperate man trying to escape his peril, and finding obstacles in the ordinary, is a common noir trope.  With this opening, the obstacle is a nondescript driver who is too curious for his own good.  The desperation is evident when the con resorts to violence to this threat.

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Personally I feel that the use of POV in this scene was a great advantage for the film. It's rare when films use this camera technique. The POV tends to add a more personal touch rather than just putting the audience in a seat and having them watch from the sidelines. 

 

It helped with the tension of the scene because as Bogart has escaped prison his motive has now become about survival and leaving it behind as soon as possible. This is evident when he gets picked up by the guy in the car Bogart looks back to make sure there is no one following. When the camera acted as his head and turned back at the road it fills the audience with uneasiness just as Bogart feels. It also puts his survival instincts as our own. Once the guy finds out Bogart has escaped from prison Bogart beats him to ensure that he can take the guys car. This is the exact survival instinct any person escaping from prison would have done and the POV helps the audience experience it for themselves. 

 

The POV technique is important to the style of film noir because it is essentially putting our primitive instincts into action. Bogart becomes the audience and the audience becomes Bogart. The audience becomes an active participant in the telling of the story rather than just being a listener. 

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I think the use of the first-person POV technique was successful because it makes the audience more curious. At the beginning, you can't really tell whether the character is guilty or innocent just by looking at the character's face, you can just study only his actions and his thoughts.

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The opening of Dark Passage wastes no time throwing the viewer right off the back of a truck and into the noir universe.  Most films take time to establish the universe in which the story takes place and then have the central character give some sort of “I want” speech. “My Fair Lady” is a classic example; Eliza sings, “All I want is a room somewhere . . .” Noir is different. Noir heroes act out of desperation and not desire. Noir films throw their heroes into a jam from the get-go and drag the viewer along with them. The psychic action is not to achieve a dream but to solve a problem. The challenge for the screenwriter and director is to use iconic (though not clichéd) elements that will instantly tell us about the universe of the story without giving us a long build up. Everyone has heard of San Quentin and so why a guy might throw himself off of a truck in a barrel and take off his shirt, needs no further explanation. In fact, Bogart’s voice-over is probably unnecessary. The interrogation by Clifton Young is also probably unnecessary in terms of exposition, but it does further the plot. We know that Young has just passed the motorcycle cops and surely he hears the San Quentin sirens. We know that he had some association with a defunct carnival, and he asks a lot of questions. It quickly becomes obvious that he’s a bit underhanded and sees Bogart’s sticky situation as an opportunity for profit. While I think the POV shot (really numerous shots blended together via motion blur) does involve me in the action, I feel like it invades my personal space. It makes me feel uncomfortable, but I don’t think it’s a good thing in this case. Instead of involving me, it seems more like a verfremdungseffekt. I appreciate what Delmer Daves was trying to do, but I don’t he was particularly successful.

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This is one of my favorite films.  The building of the  chemistry

between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall  builds steady  throughout the  film.
Not seeing Bogart’s face  added that extra suspense. 
The view inside the barrel and the character's journey  out of the  barrel while the police sirens are blazing somehow makes you  “root” for this  guy, before you  know the  entire  story and before you  see his face.  Seeing from his POV during the  first part of the  film is very interesting because the viewer is focus on the other characters and how they  react to the Bogart character. 
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Wow, a lot of people have made some very astute observations in this thread.  I really can't add much but to say that while I usually find first person POVs in modern movies to be really gimmicky, I though it was used to good effect here.  

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