Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dusty On Bogart

I spent the last couple of years getting to know the work of Humphrey Bogart. My original plan was take in classics and learn what I could. I started with "Casablanca" and my plan veered towards focusing on Bogart. I considered writing reviews of all his films, but there are just way too many. This list is pretty long and those are just the one's I've seen; less than half of his complete filmography. I hope to add to this list and revise it as I go along. What you see here is just the first step.

This post will exist as a page HERE. That is where you should look for updates in the future.

Dead End (1937) - Bogie wasn't a household name when this film was made. He is one of the top-billed actors but not the lead. He plays a gangster who comes back to the ghetto after making it big in organized crime. The "dead end kids" have a made him into a legend in his absence but are eventually let down by the reality of Babyface Martin (3 Stars)

High Sierra (1941) - H.B. takes another turn as criminal playing the likable Roy Earle. Just released and planning a heist that will allow him to retire, Earle's plans are complicated by the affections of a young women. Personally, I think this is an underrated Bogart piece. The shootout that takes place in the film's namesake is not to be missed. (3.5 Stars)

Everyone loves a MacGuffin.
The Maltese Falcon (1941) - This is Bogie at his smug best. I like him when he plays a smart ass and Sam Spade is definitely one of those characters. Featuring Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, this film is a total classic. The plot can get complicated, but it's the interaction between characters that makes it all work. The Falcon is notable for being one of the best examples of a Hitchcockian MacGuffin. This is the best pure film noir ever made in my opinion. (4 Stars)

Across The Pacific (1942) - This one takes Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet from "Maltese" and puts them on a boat. Bogart as Rick Leland is a dishonored Army officer who may not be as dishonored as he'd like you to believe. On his long journey he uncovers a plot to attack America and springs into action. He also springs into a little action with Mary Astor. Not too much though. It's 1942, after all. (3 Stars)

Casablanca (1942) - If you haven't seen this film you shouldn't be visiting a movie blog. The greatest romantic film, no, the greatest film ever made. I wrote a lot more about it at Casablanca. (4 Stars)

Sahara (1943) - This gem gets lost in the sea of Bogart greats, it really has a lot to offer though. With the excellent character name of Sgt. Joe Gunn, Bogart leads a group of soldiers in Africa who get cut off from the main pack. Armed with only one tank and a makeshift squadron, Bogie forces a huge group of Germans to surrender thanks to a simple ruse. Bogart is strong as a leader forced to make tough decisions as his crew starves and dehydrates. (3.5 Stars)

To Have and Have Not (1944) - Forget plot. This is the blossoming of a romance between Harry Morgan and Marie Browning. A romance so strong that Bogart and Lauren Bacall ended up taking taking it from the world of fiction to the world of fact. On-screen chemistry isn't hard to come by when the two leads are falling in love. What I remember about this film is Bacall's singing. A low voice for a woman, and sultry, sung right to the heart of Bogie. (3 Stars)

Conflict (1945) - Love the plot of this film. Bogart, as Richard Mason, gets in a light traffic accident but pretends to be hurt badly. He and his wife are at odds, so he sneaks out ahead of her one night and runs her off a mountain road, killing her. He goes back home and continues being "disabled". Perfect crime right? Maybe not. As echoes of his wife haunt him he disintegrates into his own paranoia. This is a unique role for H.B. (4 Stars)

The Big Sleep (1946) - This film is beloved by many, not as much by me. I get the allure. The Bacall team up is once again flawless. Phillip Marlowe is a legendary character and Bogie does him justice. I love a particular scene where he pretends to be an literary elitist at a bookstore. My problem is with the plot. It's notoriously awful. Most fans choose to simply overlook it, I just can't. All the pieces are there though. I just don't think it's the masterpiece that some have tried to convince me of. (3 Stars)

Dead Reckoning (1947) - Pretty typical noir. Bogie plays Capt. Rip Murdock who is investigating the suspicious death of a war buddy. He ends up uncovering a gambling ring and more. Typical noir, but not stale thanks to the always stellar performance of Bogart. (3 Stars)

The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947) - This is a mysterious and twisted film. Bogart plays Mr. Carroll who is a renown artist and widower. Now his new wife is suffering form the same mysterious illness as his last. Could foul play be involved? Another overlooked gem. (4 Stars)

Dark Passage (1947) - This was memorable. I remember how much I didn't like it. The first 2/3 of the movie are shot in first-person POV so that the only time you see the protagonist's face is in reflections and photos. Eventually he gets some old-school plastic surgery and becomes Bogart. Bacall is in this one two, but that is the only thing it's noteworthy for. Good plot, terrible execution. Very boring. (1.5 Stars)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) - Three down-on-their-luck Americans in Mexico head out to the mountains in search of gold. They find the gold, but they constantly live in fear of saboteurs. There's trouble with bandits, outsiders, and most of all each other. This is another film where Bogart shows how insane he can go. His hairdo lends itself to the craziness. Dir. John Huston's father Walter steals some scenes as a eccentric old prospector. This film ranks up there with the greats in American Cinema. (4 Stars)

Bogart vs. Robinson in Key Largo
Key Largo (1948) - Directed by John Huston, Starring Bogart, Bacall, and the inimitable Edward G. Robinson. Never before has their been this much nasally-sounding witty banter on screen. Robinson leads a group of gangsters who force their way into a hotel to escape a hurricane. Bogart aims to protect the owner and his family. Especially his lovely young daughter. There's a memorable boat scene at the end. (4 Stars)

Tokyo Joe (1949) - Bogart plays the not-so-memorable titular character Joe Barrett. He's headed back to Japan to catch up on his old life but things are different. Folks are hiding something from him. Eventually he gets a job piloting some illegally precious cargo and learns the truth that's been escaping him. You shouldn't feel bad bypassing this one, unless you're a completist. (2 Stars)

In A Lonely Place (1950) - Dixon Steele loves a murder mystery, even when he's the suspect. Despite being cleared of suspicion, his erratic behavior and obsession with egging on everyone in town brings him back into the fold as a suspect. Bogart is exceptionally entertaining in this role and hams it up at every chance. (4 Stars)

The Enforcer (1951) - Not a bad film, but certainly not his best work. He plays a stern district attorney looking to take out an organized crime syndicate. If not for Bogie it wouldn't garner any attention. (2.5 Stars)

The African Queen (1951) - John Huston directs this great film and Katharine Hepburn costars. She plays a conservative missionary serving a village that gets massacred by German soldiers at the start of WWI. Bogie plays a steamboat captain who brings them supplies. Living alone on a boat has made him grimy and ill-mannered, at total odds with Hepburn's prim character. He's the only option for her to survive though. The two of them set off down a treacherous river and form an unlikely romance along the way. Terrific, must-see film. (4 Stars)

Beat The Devil (1953) - In some circles this film is considered a classic. I thought it was a total bore. It's sort of a comedy that satirizes The Maltese Falcon and features some of the same actors. It's just bad. Then again, Roger Ebert loves it. You be the judge. (1 Star)

The Caine Mutiny (1954) - This is one of Bogart's most skillful performances. He plays a strict naval captain who draws the ire of his crew. When a storm approaches and lives are a stake, his officers take control of the ship. A trial begins for mutiny. At first, I was firmly on the side of the mutineers. By the end I'm not sure my stance is much less firm. Bogie shows some true depth. I'll also mention this is one of his few that are in color and widescreen. (4 Stars)

The Left Hand Of God (1955) - This film should be talked about more often than it is. Father O' Shea shows up to be the new minister at a Catholic mission in China. His attributes are a little suspicious though. He's certainly not what you'd expect from a Catholic priest. Even his desire to remain celibate is in question. As the mystery unfolds we learn Father O' Shea has dark past he's running from and risks dragging the Church along for the ride. (4 Stars)

The Desperate Hours (1955) - Three escaped cons invade a home and hold it's occupants hostage while they wait for the heat to die down. All three are violent, but some more so than others. You just hope the family will live through their implosion. This is a tense film where Bogie enjoys playing the bad guy. (3.5 Stars)
The Desperate Hours
The Harder They Fall (1956) - The last film in an much-too-short career. Bogie plays Eddie Willis, an ex-sports writer who gets called upon to promote a boxer. The fighter is a hulking man who looks the part of a champion. Unfortunately he can't punch or take a punch. Then Willis' job becomes paying off opponents to take dives. His fighter is innocent and naive and never suspects a thing. It's a somewhat sad film that poses a lot of moral questions. Excellent and entertaining. (4 Stars)

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