Before Bogart died, he and his wife Lauren Bacall made four features together that will go down in history as the best examples of Classic Hollywood Cinema. Dark Passage is the third film they made together and considered to be the weakest of the four. Although the chemistry between Bacall and Bogart is palpable and intriguing, I would have to agree. I had a good time with the film, but there are a few plot points I felt were too heavy-handed for even their romance to override them.
The film follows a man (Bogart) who escapes from San Quinton. While on the run, he is picked up by a beautiful stranger (Bacall) who helps him with his escape because she knew that he did no kill his wife. This is where the first contrivance comes into play. Why was she passing that street in the middle of nowhere at the exact time that he was escaping? And she just happened to know everything about the case. Then when he has hidden her amazing apartment for a while, he gets into a taxi. The driver recognizes him right away and offers to help him, saying that he knows a back alley surgeon. Why does this taxi driver know this surgeon? Why does the surgeon happen to be involved in plastic surgery, not as common a practice as it is today? It seems to be of convenance in order to get him to become Humphrey Bogart. Then he goes to his best friend’s place and they talk about the one person that will end up killing that best person, Madge, who also happens to know the beautiful stranger. Why do they know each other? Why are they good friends in that Madge shows up on her doorstep in order to seek shelter from a madman? Once Bogart has the surgery and discovers his friend is dead, he goes back to the stranger in order to get better. They fall in love, and Bogart leaves for Peru with a couple of hiccups along the way. One in particular is not very characteristic of the Bogart archetype, he gets caught at random by an investigator without any fake papers and trembling about what happened months ago. Of course he is lucky enough to escape, but it was one of the most silly scenes in the film.
I guess the problem is that I never doubted for one moment that Bogart was going to get out of the situation alive and with his girl. Although the stakes were continually stated, the advantages he stumbles upon were too great for him not to get away. How am I to believe that he had no real plan when he busted out of prison, no intentions except to hide out at his friends’ apt until they could go to Peru? That he just stumbled into good luck at every turn, but was still a blubbering idiot? It is hard to suspend your disbelief when the things they throw at you are so insane, but they take them so seriously.
All of the silly contrivances aside, I thought the relationship between Bogart and Bacall was wonderful. I could listen to them talk to each other all day long. It is what kept the film from being bad at every turn. Just as long as he could go back to Bacall, I was okay with the silliness. And holy crap do I want her awesome apartment! It is so gorgeous with the etched glass, spiral staircase, and door to open to the lift. They just don’t make them like they used to.