Bogie and Bacall - The Signature Collection (The Big Sleep / Dark Passage / Key Largo / To Have and Have Not)
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Bogie & Bacall: The Signature Collection (DVD) (4-Pack)
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944) - World-weary Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) changes his mind about helping the Free French when a sultry siren (19-year-old Lauren Bacall in her screen debut) comes along. Full of intrigue and racy banter, this is the thriller that brought Bogart and Bacall together. THE BIG SLEEP (1946) - L.A. private eye Philip Marlowe (Bogart) takes on a blackmail case and trails murderers, rogues, the spoiled rich and more. Bacall costars under Howard Hawks’ brisk direction of William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman’s ace adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel. DARK PASSAGE (1947) - Bogart is a prison escapee framed for murder who emerges from plastic surgery with a new face. Bacall is his lone ally, and the chemistry between the leads is undeniable. Agnes Moorehead plays a supporting role as a venomous harpy in Delmer Daves’ stylish film-noir thriller. KEY LARGO (1948) - Outside, a hurricane swells. Inside, a sadistic mobster (Edward G. Robinson) holds a hotel owner (Bacall), her invalid father-in-law (Lionel Barrymore) and an ex-GI (Bogart) at gunpoint in this classic from director John Huston (who cowrote the screenplay with Richard Brooks).]]>
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"To Have and Have Not", released in 1944, is the first of two films on the set directed by Howard Hawks. It is based, in the loosest sense of the term, on a novel by Ernest Hemingway, adapted by William Faulkner and Jules Furthman (it thus represents the only 'collaboration' by the two Nobel Prize-winning American authors who were the opposite poles of American fiction in the middle of the 20th century) - which mostly amounted to Faulkner and Furthman throwing out most of Hemingway's novel and turning it into a ripoff of "Casablanca". Captain Harry Morgan (Bogart) finds himself under pressure to help the Free French infiltrate the island of Martinique, then controlled by the Vichy French government; Morgan doesn't want to take a side, but he finds himself drawn into the conflict, partly because of his involvement with Marie (Bacall), a fellow American. The main attraction here is Bogart and Bacall's interactions; indeed, Hawks was sufficiently impressed by their chemistry that he had the film rewritten to emphasize the two, relegating Dolores Moran's Helene, who was meant to be Bogart's primary love interest originally, to a minor part.
"The Big Sleep", filmed around the same time but released in 1946 due to scheduling and production issues, comes from the same creative team (Hawks, Faulkner, Furthman, and new writer Leigh Brackett), and this time puts Bogart and Bacall centre-stage from the start; they were already married by the time production had ceased, and would remain so until his death in 1957, having two children in the interim. "The Big Sleep" is based on the seminal detective novel by Raymond Chandler, and constitutes Bogart's second major contribution to film noir after playing Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade in "The Maltese Falcon". Bogart is Philip Marlowe, Chandler's celebrated protagonist, drawn into a mystery involving the Sternwood family, whose younger daughter is being blackmailed. Bacall is the older daughter, who, of course, sparks with Marlowe. The film has an infamously complicated plot (including one murder never explained; legend has it that Chandler himself, when asked, didn't know), but holds together very well, with superb atmosphere (a must for a Chandler adaptation); it's a bona fide classic of the noir genre.
"Dark Passage", released in 1947, is the black sheep of this collection. While the others are made by legendary directors and often based on the works of famous novelists, this film was overseen by Delmer Daves, a journeyman studio writer and director. However, I would rate it the second-best film in the collection, and it provides some of the best interaction between Bogart and Bacall. Bogart's character is Vincent Parry, who has escaped from prison, where he had been sent after being wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife; aided by Bacall's Irene, he gets plastic surgery (for the first hour, the film is shot from Vincent's POV, so we never see his face before the surgery makes him look like Bogart; this is an unconventional approach), and must attempt to both keep his identity secret and try to find the true killer of his wife. The plot is a bit contrived in places (particularly the setup for him getting the surgery), but it is a very well-done film.
"Key Largo", released in 1948, is the final film of the collection, written and directed by John Huston, who had also handled Bogart's breakthrough roles in "High Sierra" and "The Maltese Falcon", and would in the same year direct him in "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" (incidentally, arguably his best role). "Key Largo" is the one film in the collection I think is somewhat overrated. Our story follows Bogart to a hotel in Key Largo, to visit the father (Lionel Barrymore, tremendously fun) and widow (Bacall) of a dead war comrade, only to find that the hotel has been occupied by the entourage of an exiled mobster (Edward G. Robinson). Bogart's non-detective characters frequently had a lot of Rick Blaine in them (as the first film in this collection did), but this film's lead is rather unconvincing as a shirker. However, others rate this much more highly than I do, and it is not unentertaining.
All in all, a good collection of a great screen couple (though these films do not, apart from "The Big Sleep", really represent Bogart's best work). Surprisingly, despite Bogart having nearly a decade of film stardom remaining after 1948 before he died, he and Bacall never worked together again.
The great thing about this set is that it has subtitles which is essential for my husband because of his hearing problem. A lot of old movies do not have this feature, even if the box says it does. I've had to return a few collections of old movies that say they have closed captions but actually do not.
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