RARA-AVIS: Re: Dark Passage (The film)

From: JIM DOHERTY (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 04 Mar 2009

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    Re your comment below:

    "That first person technique was introduced by Robert Montogomery in his annoying adaptation of Chandler's Lady in the Lake. In Lady, it's a stupid gimmick. In Passage it actually serves a purpose and is easier to tolerate, since it's only used for part of the film."

    I think you could go back a few years and find an even earlier use of first-person camera. John Huston used it in THE MALTESE FALCON. When Effie comes in to tell Sam that he has a potential waiting in the outer office, we see Effie from San's POV.

    Further, I wouldn't call its use in TLITL "stupid." Ill-advised, perhaps, but, viewed objectively, prior to the film's actually being made, I can see where it might have seemed like a good visual equivalent of Chandler's vivid first-person narration. I do agree, however, that it's a gimmick that wears out its welcome soon, calling attention to itself and away from the actal story being told. Not stupid, just something that didn't work as well in practice as Montgomery thought it would in theory.

    And the failure of the gimmick shouldn't blind us to what's good about the film. A great script (the only time Chandler ever worked on and adaptation of his own work, though he ultimately decided not to take credit for anything but writing the source material), fine performance by, among others, Tom Tully as a good cop, Lloyd Nolan as a bad cop, and Joyce Randolph as a femme fatale. Best of all, it's not Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE.

    I also agree that its limited use in DARK PASSAGE works far better.



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