Being big fans of the label, we established a column devoted to these unusual gems. Thus “The Archivist” was born — a semi-monthly look at some of the best, boldest and most batshit motion pictures the Shield has to offer. Some of these will be recent additions to the collection, while others will be titles that have been available for awhile. With thousands of films procurable on Warner Archive (and more being added every month), there’s no possible way we’ll get to all of them. But trust me when we say we’re sure going to try.
2016 was the year of Bogey and Bacall for Warner Archive, who released Key Largo and The Big Sleep early in the year (which I covered in a previous edition of The Archivist) and followed up with balance of the famous couple’s costarring features, their first appearance together in To Have And Have Not, and edgy noir thriller Dark Passage.
To Have And Have Not (1944)
This is it; the one where it all began. Bogart and Bacall met and fell in love working on this film, and their chemistry on screen became the stuff of legend.
Thematically, the film returns to something of a recurring element in Bogart’s films of the era: the heroism of the French Resistance against the Axes — notably evident in Passage To Marseille and of course most famously in Casablanca.
Comparisons to Casablanca don’t end there. To Have And Have Not similarly takes place in a resort locale (Martinique), somewhat on the periphery of the war but not immune to its effects. Bogart is in familiar territory as fishing boat captain Harry Morgan, once again just trying to make a living while remaining a neutral agent on the heated political spectrum.
Because of his captaincy, Harry’s activist friends continually pester him to help them with their operations, often in need of smuggling materials or people quietly. He steadfastly refuses, but despite his resistance, a number of new developments cause him to reconsider his neutrality. New pro-German factions have taken over the colony under the harsh leadership of Vichy French Captain Renard (Bogart oft-collaborator Dan Seymour), and their bullying ways begin to harden his resolve. Meanwhile, he strikes up a relationship with Marie (Bacall), a new girl in town. The pair hit it off marvelously, but she may have an even bigger impact on him than he expects.
To Have And Have Not feels like familiar territory, but when the comparison is Casablanca, that’s not at all a bad thing. The film kicked off not only a solid screen pairing, but what is quite probably Hollywood’s most legendary romance.
Dark Passage (1947)
Critically panned when it debuted, Dark Passage is the B-side of this particular pairing. That said, I actually favored this solid thriller even more. Dark Passage succeeds not only as enjoyably pulpy fare, but in exploring some novel camera techniques and the idea of identity.
Bogart plays Vincent Parry, an escaped convict who resorts to an illegal facial reconstruction surgery to hide his identity. The film opens immediately following his escape from San Quentin, putting the viewer right in his shoes by employing a first person POV. He gets picked up by Irene Jansen (Bacall), who identifies and offers to help him. Her motivation for this isn’t immediately made clear, creating a point of interest to be explored later.
After his surgery, Parry again seeks out Irene to hole up and hide while his face heals. It becomes clear over the course of the conversations that Irene feels a strange connection with Parry, having closely followed his trial for the murder of his wife, and believed him to be framed and undone by malicious false testimony of Madge, a jealous ex-girlfriend with whom she is acquainted.
Parry’s troubles still aren’t over though, for he’s still being hounded and stalked by one or more unseen perpetrators.
Dark Passage is certainly not the kind of classically great masterpiece that Bogart’s best-known films are, but it’s undeniably shock-filled entertainment. The film succeeds wildly as pulp fare with its novel cinematography, lurid story, skeevy characters, revelatory mystery elements, and gut-churning body modification element.
To Have And Have Not and Dark Passage are both available now on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection.
Special Features and Extras – To Have And Have Not
Bacall To Arms (6:13)
A 1946 Merrie Melodies short which is intriguing when it’s parodying Warner Brothers and making animated references to To Have And Have Not, but the whole thing ends in an unfortunate blackface caricature that will make any decent person bristle.
A Love Story: The Story Of To Have And Have Not (11:27)
A look at the film and the genesis of the famous Bogart-Bacall romance. Features commentary from Leonard Maltin, Eric Lax, and Robert Osborne.
Lux Radio Broadcast
Radio drama version of the story, featuring the film’s cast
Special Features and Extras – Dark Passage
Hold Your Breath And Cross Your Fingers (10:40)
A look at the film and the genesis of the famous Bogart-Bacall romance. Features the same squad of Leonard Maltin, Eric Lax, and Robert Osborne providing thoughts.
Slick Hare (7:54)
1947 cartoon short in which an impatient Humphrey Bogart insists that his waiter, Elmer Fudd, bring him a fried rabbit – unfortunately for Bugs Bunny.
To Have And Have Not and Dark Passage are wildly different experiences, but both are terrific films showcasing a legendary screen couple, and heartily recommended.