April 2, 2012
“It’s a great thing to have a lady aboard with clean habits. It sets the man a good example. A man alone, he gets to living like a hog”
Next in my run through of Bogey classics is 1951’s ‘The African Queen’ which sits in the AFI’s top hundred films of all time. It’s kinda like an anti ‘Apocalypse Now’, in this sweet tale two lonely souls fall in love as they traverse the dangers of a Jungle river, where as in the similarly Jungle river bound ‘Apocalypse Now’ the characters just go insane and start chopping of people’s heads! So a tip for tourists; African river trip = romance / Cambodian river trip = plunge into nether regions of hell.
Unusually for the period, half of the film was shot on location in African and it was really worth the poisonous water, hornet attacks, illness and plagues of soldier ants that beset the crew. As the Jungle scenery is gorgeously shot by master cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who gives the film a lushly colourful, painterly quality. Humphrey Bogart’s performance as curmudgeonly riverboat Captain Charlie Allnut rightly won him the Oscar but Katharine Hepburn should’ve also received a gong for her portrayal of closeted Missionary Rose Sayer. The Blu-Ray transfer is awe-inspiring and ranks alongside ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ and ‘Gone With The Wind’ as the best presentations I’ve seen on the format. You can almost reach out and touch the African foliage, bare the searing heat and feel the bristles of Bogey’s stubble.
March 1, 2012
“Drinking don’t bother my memory, if it did I wouldn’t drink, I couldn’t, you see, I’d forget how good it was, then where’d I be?”
I’m getting a taste for Humphrey Bogart films at the moment, with ‘Casablanca’ back on the big screen, ‘The Big Sleep’ just viewed and now I’m onto 1944’s ‘To Have & Have Not’. It was released two years after Bogie’s triumph in ‘Casablanca’ and has all the hallmarks of an attempt to recapture that magic. Once again our noble yet reluctant hero is torn between protecting his own well-being and helping out the Free-French cause (This time in the Vichy held port of Martinique). Providing the atmospheric music, Nightclub piano player Dooley Wilson is switched to Hotel-Bar piano player Hoagy Carmichael. ‘To Have & Have Not’s tone is a little more serious with Claude Rains’ jovial Vichy Captain Renault replaced with Dan Seymour’s more ruthless Police Captain Renard.
This time the female lead went to then newcomer Lauren Bacall, an inspired casting decision playing up the sizzling sexual chemistry between her and Bogie (On screen and off). Bacall looks absolutely stunning throughout in figure-hugging Suits and takes nonchalant Cigarette smoking to almost fetishistic extremes. One last mention of Walter Brennan’s wonderful tragic-comic turn as Bogie’s Rum-soaked sidekick Eddie. For a film clearly conceived as a cash-in, I’d say this just about matches ‘Casablanca’s exotic and romantic magic, no doubt down to the considerable skills of Director Howard Hawks.
Next in my Bogart-a-thon are two John Huston pictures 1941’s ‘The Maltese Falcon’ then 1951’s ‘The African Queen’.
February 26, 2012
“My, my, my… such a lot of guns around town and so few brains”
Howard Hawks’ ‘The Big Sleep’ is a legendary classic but somehow I’ve totally failed to ever see it… finally time to remedy that situation. The convoluted plot is frankly incomprehensible and the razor-sharp dialogue spills out of the characters mouths so fast your ears can barely keep up. The dialogue is particularly good in the sizzling scene where Bogart and Bacall are trading sexually suggestive lines about horseracing like “A lot depends on who’s in the saddle”, it’s amazing it got past the censors.
The plot follows Private-Eye Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) as he is hired to investigate a disappearance involving a rich family including femme fatale Lauren Bacall and somehow he becomes mixed up in a seedy world of pornographers, cops, gangsters and double/triple crosses. The makers would’ve probably squeezed in a subplot about Nazi-War-Gold if they’d had jus one more foot of film! At the end I had enjoyed the experience but couldn’t really piece it all together in my head. To fully enjoy ‘The Big Sleep’ I imagine you need to watch and re-watch it until the plot becomes immaterial and you can just wallow in the brooding Noir atmosphere. This is definitely something I’m planning on doing!