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BOGART & BACALL: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: The four films that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together in the 1940s are keepers, and three of them are genuine four-star classics. So it’s nice to see Warner Archive offering all four in a new compact Blu-ray set that includes all the previous editions’ copious bonus features. What follows is an edited compilation of mini-reviews of the four films published in the Deseret News on the occasion of earlier DVD and Blu-ray releases (2003-16), as well as excerpts from the my review of the 1997 reissue of an alternate version of ‘The Big Sleep.’

“To Have and Have Not” (1944). It’s the summer of 1940 in the French colony of Martinique, which is controlled by Nazi sympathizers, and a cynical opportunist (Humphrey Bogart) makings money by chartering his fishing boat to tourists. But when he’s approached to help the French Resistance, he balks. But, hey, we know he’ll come around; after all, any resemblance to “Casablanca” is undoubtedly intentional.

All of this plotting, however, plays second fiddle to the crackling chemistry between Bogie and, in her first film, Bacall. There is also scene-stealing comic relief from Hoagy Carmichael and Walter Brennan.

     

The result is a rousing adventure, directed by Howard Hawks, and it’s filled to the brim with witty dialogue — although remains most famous for bringing together Bogart and Bacall. They fell in love during filming and married after the picture’s release. (Included are a documentary about the film, a 1946 radio version with Bogie and Bacall, and a cartoon spoof, with an unfortunate racially insensitive climax).

“The Big Sleep” (1945-46). One of the best film noir thrillers ever made, this one is stylishly directed by Howard Hawks and stars Bogart as private eye Philip Marlowe, while young, stunning and dangerously alluring Bacall brings the heat. Also here are a bevy of first-rate character players (Elisha Cook Jr., Bob Steele, Martha Vickers), along with very young future Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone as a sexy bookseller.

The mysteries plotted out here are layered and somewhat confusing but there are enough laugh-out-loud quips and one-liners to keep you from caring. (My personal favorite comes at the beginning when Martha Vickers says to Bogie, “You’re not very tall, are you?” And he replies, “Well, I try to be.”)

     

This disc includes the 1945 version of this thriller that was released overseas, as well as the 1946 U.S. theatrical version that includes additional material shot a year after the film was completed (along with a documentary explaining why and the differences between the two versions). Both are fascinating, though the later, “official” version, ramped up the sexual tension between Bogie and Bacall at the expense of plot.

“Key Largo” (1948). John Huston’s excellent crime thriller is set against a raging hurricane in the upper Florida Keys and boasts an all-star cast. Bogie leads the roster as an ex-GI who is paying a visit to the widow (Bacall) and father (Lionel Barrymore) of a World War II military pal who died in combat.

     

The father and daughter a hotel that houses a bunch of seedy guests (including Claire Trevor as an alcoholic) and they are in the midst of battening down the hatches against the coming storm when a sadistic gangster (Edward G. Robinson) shows up — and the games begin.

“Dark Passage” (1947). This offbeat melodrama/murder mystery stars Bogart as a San Quentin escapee who was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. After his escape, he gets plastic surgery and tracks down the real killer. Agnes Moorehead memorably co-stars as a shady lady who helped put him away.

     

The first third of the film hides Bogie’s face with a first-person point of view (similar to what Robert Montgomery did with “Lady in the Lake”), then he’s in bandages for the middle third.

True, the story is highly implausible but the film is still entertaining. The star power helps immensely and fans shouldn’t be disappointed.