Title: The Bogie & Bacall Signature Collection
Silent or Talkie: Talkie
These cinematic masterpieces owe their appeal to the real-life romance of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, whose innuendos send the films into overdrive. Bogart and Bacall have each achieved iconic status in their own right; but, the mention of one floods the mind with thoughts of the other. Together they formed a solid union, both privately and professionally. This collection is a neatly wrapped box of memories, and while the subject matter skips along the border of shadows, it’s the appeal of these two main stars that cast an unforgettable light.
To Have and Have Not (1945)
To Have and Have Not is both the first, and perhaps the most revered collaboration between Bogie and Bacall. Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway, who bet director Howard Hawks that Hawks couldn’t adapt his writing for the screen, To Have and Have Not became a rousing success. Bogart is Harry “Steve” Morgan, a professional fisherman who loses some of his equipment while out on a routine trip with Johnson (Walter Sande). Morgan is furious at the loss of his property and demands that Johnson compensate him financially. Johnson promises to pay when the banks open the next morning. Later the same day, Morgan is asked to transport some political figures aboard his boat, but refuses to get involved with anything surrounding “Frenchy” (Marcel Dalio). Morgan is in the hotel bar that evening when he notices a stunning young woman picking Johnson’s pocket. As she leaves, Morgan follows her and insists that she return the lifted wallet (seeing as how it would indirectly affect his money as well). The woman is Marie Browning (Lauren Bacall), whom Morgan quickly dubs “Slim”. As Morgan checks the wallet, he finds a pile of traveler’s checks and a ticket for a flight scheduled to leave before the bank opens in the morning. This infuriates Morgan, who marches back with Slim to return Johnson’s wallet. He demands that Johnson sign the traveler’s checks over to him, but before they are signed, Johnson is killed in an unexpected shootout. This leaves Morgan at a crossroad. He knows that Slim’s rugged exterior is a façade. Her deepest wish is to settle down, instead of bearing the weight of maintaining her haphazard existence. Morgan senses her desperation and agrees to transport the men he denied earlier. The money from the job will help him get back on his feet and send Slim home. He buys her a plane ticket for that afternoon and proceeds to collect Frenchy’s men. Before they can set sail, one of the men is wounded and Morgan learns that Slim never left, but rather stayed to be near him. An explosive series of events leads Morgan to square off against the police in a classic finale that few films have dared to challenge. The famous line, delivered by Bacall: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow”, was voted the #34 movie quote by the American Film Institute. Interesting trivia: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall named their son Stephen after Bogart’s character in To Have and Have Not, the film that brought them together. The DVD: The great thing about this film is its staying power. An untouched version would still have the legs to stand among the multi-million dollar blockbusters of today. Luckily for us, we do get to see this classic in its original splendor. This particular restoration has the warmth of the 1940s. It’s easy to imagine the comfort of those plush movie palace seats and the ambiance of the crowd as the plot unravels before our eyes. This is the magic of the film. It has the ability to draw us into its own world. Special features include: All-new making-of featurette “A Love Story: The Story of To Have and To Have Not”, Vintage cartoon “Bacall to Arms” and a Lux Radio Theatre production starring Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall.
The Big Sleep (1946)
The Big Sleep is based on a novel by Raymond Chandler, whose works spawned many Films Noir made throughout the 1940s. In this classic Film Noir, Bogart is Philip Marlowe, a private detective hired by General Sternwood (Charles Waldron) to investigate a series of letters demanding the payment of gambling debts. Sternwood is wealthy, but confined to a wheelchair. This makes it difficult for him to keep a close watch over his two daughters Vivian (Lauren Bacall) and Carmen (Martha Vickers). As Marlowe and Sternwood sit in a humid outdoor greenhouse, the tension adds impatience to the stifling heat and Marlowe suggests that Sternwood pay the debts. At Sternwood’s firm insistence, Marlowe agrees to look into the matter. As he is preparing to leave, Marlowe is told that Vivian wishes to speak with him. They bicker, somewhat playfully, before Marlowe leaves amused and obviously smitten. This is the beginning of a whirlwind adventure. The Big Sleep is notorious for its convoluted plot. Many of the character names seem to appear out of thin air, with no explanation of relevance or influence. However, it’s not so much the trail of clues that solidify this film, but the depth of the main players. Marlowe begins his investigation in a bookstore, where he masquerades as an aloof connoisseur of literature. He double-talks the store owner until she unintentionally drops clues about a man named “Geiger”. Marlowe walks out, only to hold up in a bookstore across the street while he waits for Geiger to appear. When he does appear, Marlowe follows him to his house. Carmen, the spitfire daughter of Sternwood, arrives at Geiger’s house shortly thereafter. Marlowe is staking the place out from his car, but runs inside when he hears a horrific scream followed by multiple gunshots. Inside, he finds Carmen half-conscious with Geiger dead on the floor. Marlowe takes Carmen home and returns to Geiger’s house to find the body missing. Vivian is thrown into the mix of her own free will. She is now concerned for the safety of her sister Carmen, who is being blackmailed by an unseen party with a compromising photo she took earlier with Geiger. The blackmailers demand $5,000 for the photo. Vivian believes she can pay the demand with a loan from Eddie Mars (John Ridgely). Mars is a gambler who was vicariously mixed up in a previous crime. Marlowe learns that Mars owns the house where Geiger was killed. Vivian never hears from the blackmailers, much to the chagrin of Marlowe, who is showing signs of disgust. The long-awaited climax falls upon an apartment where Eddie Mars is mistakenly killed by his own men. With Marlowe finally piecing together the jagged clues, he and Vivian are left to deal with the aftermath. The DVD: This film almost busted at the seams with dark undertones, so it’s only fitting that the restoration lighten the load. The Big Sleep is presented beautifully, with the sharpness of paper’s edge. The shadows, very important to the atmosphere of this particular film, are left in tact. The sound is mixed nicely, and the option of Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround certainly doesn’t hurt. Despite the twisting plot, The Big Sleep is enjoyable on many different levels. It’s packed with the wit and precision that makes classic Hollywood, well, classic. Special features include: Both the 114 minute 1946 theatrical-release version and the 116 minute 1944 pre-release version containing 18 minutes which were either re-shot or deleted from the theatrical release, The Big Sleep Comparisons – Documentary (16 min.) on the differences between the two versions, narrated by UCLA’s Film Preservation Archives whiz Robert Gitt.
Dark Passage (1947)
One of the more original films in Bogart’s list of classics is Dark Passage. Despite his face not being seen on screen until nearly half of the running time has elapsed, it still makes for one amazing thrill ride. Bogart plays Vincent Parry, a convicted murder that carefully escapes from prison. Grabbing a ride from a passerby, Parry is forced to knock the driver unconscious when a radio broadcast describes him APB-style. While the driver is out, Parry steals his clothes and does a quick change. Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall) suddenly appears and offers to help Parry, which triggers his cautious nerves. She explains that she’d been following his trial and only wishes to help, as a way of “avenging” her father who died in prison as a wrongfully accused man. He agrees to hide out in her apartment, away from the frantic police already combing the streets. Parry ventures out under the cover of night to find the real perpetrators, and is recognized by the cab driver who gives him a lift. The cabbie, like Irene, offers to help. His assistance comes in the form of a contact – an “underground” plastic surgeon that can alter Parry’s face. The operation goes off without a hitch and Parry returns to Irene’s apartment to heal. Bogart’s face is finally revealed for the first time when his bandages are removed. With a new face, Parry sets out to clear his tarnished name. The DVD: Dark Passage was restored in a way that left the effectiveness undisturbed. The audio and video are both clear and crisp, yet the grittiness of this film comes through like a fist in the mouth. Also considered a Film Noir, Dark Passage benefits from a certain amount of edge. After all, we’re seeing life through Vincent Parry’s eyes, and it isn’t always pristine. Special features include: All-new making of featurette “Hold Your Breath and Cross Your Fingers” and Vintage cartoon “Slick Hare”.
Key Largo (1948)
Directed by John Huston, and based on a 1939 Maxwell Anderson play, Key Largo stars Edward G. Robinson as Johnny Rocco, the stereotypical “big boss” gangster who often speaks of himself in the third person. He and his goons have infiltrated a hotel in the Florida Keys as they await word of a “piece of business”. Meanwhile, a war hero named Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) visits the hotel to speak with its owner, James Temple (Lionel Barrymore), who is also the father of a soldier McCloud knew in the war. As McCloud arrives, Rocco’s men are already peppered throughout the hotel lobby. They appear bored and restless, but are determined to give McCloud the once over. Rocco appears among the rest of the hotel’s inhabitants, all the while reassuring his gang that they’ll be gone in a few hours. McCloud’s and Rocco’s personalities soon clash. As Rocco’s business plans come to light, McCloud realizes he may have little choice but to throw caution to the wind, literally, with a raging hurricane on shore. The daughter-in-law of the hotel owner, Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall), adds an element of innocence, yet frustrates McCloud. She is the quintessential deer-in-headlights. With McCloud’s nonchalant behavior comes the task of maintaining a relaxed appearance. Nora’s mere presence challenges his indecisiveness and forces him to extend himself much further than he normally would. Rocco is a walking time-bomb, a madman with enough sensibility to remain calm when appropriate. The smallest incident causes him to explode, but when his buttons are pushed harder, he responds with silence. This becomes a rollercoaster for the audience, who never fully know what to expect with each passing scene. When will he lose it and when will he restrain himself? This see-saw is set against a claustrophobic backdrop, similar to the psychological experiment where two people are locked in a room while the temperature steadily increases. As the heat smothers judgment, attitudes shift and the subjects become nothing like the docile people they were in the beginning. This is a personality-chamber where anything can happen. The results are limited only by the individual and how far they let themselves fall into the lunacy. Key Largo walks the same tightrope. This being the final collaboration between Bogart and Bacall, it was a fantastic send-off to their joint efforts. The DVD: This film’s restoration lends support to the strong shadows and facial expressions. These are two crucial elements of Key Largo’s modus operandi. The audio is also excellent, very clean with hardly any dialogue indiscernible. There is also the option of French audio, along with both English and French subtitles. In addition to the transfer, the DVD also provides us with the theatrical trailer and the film’s production notes. Film aficionados will no doubt find these notes a welcomed bonus. They offer character insight and are becoming increasingly popular among information hounds.
A set like this is more than a collective of films; it’s a tribute to one of the most influential duos of all time. Bogie and Bacall mix it up on the home front and take us abroad in a never-ending wave of magnificence. These are merely four pieces of a lasting impression. Bogie and Bacall’s individual films are bricks in the foundation of Hollywood, and together they provide the cement that holds classic cinema in place.
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