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This film noir is one of the four films that real life couple Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together.  It’s probably the least popular of the four, which seems fair. There’s a lot to enjoy here, but its mainly because of the quality of the cast – the storyline itself – while an interesting premise – builds coincidence upon coincidence, and is hard to take seriously.

The story revolves around Vincent Parry (Bogart), a man who has escaped from prison where he was sent after being convicted of killing his wife.  He intends to find the real killer, while evading the law.  He is helped by beautiful stranger Irene Jansen (Bacall).  However, Parry knows that his face is too familiar and has to undergo plastic surgery to change his appearance.

The first half of the film has Parry narrating things as they happen, and the audience sees things as he would see them.  This means that while Bogart’s familiar voice is present throughout, its not until after Parry has his surgery that we see his face, at which point the story is told from a third person point of view.  I’m guessing that this method of filming was used, rather than using a different actor to play the character before surgery, and then switching to Bogart afterwards – the result is more effective and worked well.

Of course, Bogart had such charisma and that charisma is a large part of what makes this film enjoyable, because truthfully the audience is asked to suspend a lot of disbelief.  Irene Jansen’s reasons for wanting to help Parry are flimsy, and he later takes a cab, the driver of which just happens to want to help Parry (who he has never met before).  The same driver just happens to know a plastic surgeon who can operate on Parry that night (!), and plastic surgery takes 20 minutes, after which Parry is able to walk a long distance back to Jansen’s home.  Irene just happens to have a friend who was a witness against Parry at his trial…and so on and so on.  There is a nice subplot involving a driver who initially picks up Parry after his escape, believing Parry to be a hitch-hiker, which added to the story.

Overall, the star quality in this film makes it worth watching, but the storyline leaves a lot to be required.  Still worth seeing though for fans of the lead actors.

Year of release: 1947

Director: Delmer Daves

Writers: David Goodis (book), Delmer Daves

Main cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead

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