The good news about last night’s Bogey-inspired double bill was that it was sold out. There’s nothing I want more than to see tons of people come out and support the ongoing preservation of these films while enjoying them in a theater, the way they were meant to be experienced.
The bad news? Sold out crowd means more fidgety entitled toddlers who can’t wait until intermission to check Facebook on their fucking cellphones. And I’d rather be sitting next to Larry Tierney while he’s pissing in a paper cup than sit next to someone constantly flashing their glowy phone in a dark theater. Especially during films like these, where I just want to get lost in another era.
Last night was probably the worst night for cellphone offenses since I’ve been attending. Even host Eddie Muller had to comment on it when he stood up to do his intro for the second feature. Seriously, kids. Don’t do it. Also, get off my lawn.
But never mind all that. How about the flicks?
First up, DARK PASSAGE.
Ordinary joe Vincent Parry (Bogart) gets framed for killing his wife and busts out of San Quentin to find the real killer. He gets help along the way from a beautiful artist, a sympathetic cabbie and a disgraced plastic surgeon.
Adapted from the David Goodis novel of the same name, this movie is batshit nuts from the opening frame and doesn’t let up. Dizzying POV shots, a surreal anesthesia-induced dream sequence and the sultry, unruffled angel that is Lauren Bacall in the middle of it all, helping bandaged Bogie smoke through a long, skinny cigarette holder like it’s no big deal.
This was a fantastic film to see on the big screen, but it’s not hard to get your sweaty little paws on a copy in one form or another. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do so. It’s wildly unrealistic and over-the-top and I love every minute of it.
During the break, Muller interviewed Stephen Bogart, son of the iconic Hollywood power couple. He talked a bit about his parents and then discussed the second feature on the double bill, along with writer/director Stephen Anderson.
Which brings me to THIS LAST LONELY PLACE.
Yes, a brand new movie. A taut, twisty little Neo Noir gem that pays tribute to the classics without trying to recreate them verbatim. And since you’re wondering what the hell this has to do with Humphrey Bogart, his estate produced the film. He even gets a brief, ghostly cameo on television in a crummy hotel room.
L.A. cab driver and Iraq war veteran Sam is just trying to get through his last shift before flying to Hawaii to try and patch things up with his estranged wife and daughters. But this is Noir City, kids, so we all know that ain’t gonna happen.
He picks up a troubled man with money to burn who just wants to drive around and is willing to pay for the privilege. Sure enough, it turns out the guy’s mixed up in a murder and of course there’s a beautiful woman involved. No one can be trusted and nothing is as it seems. Which is just the way we like it.
It could be said that the plot twists are somewhat predictable, but that didn’t bother me. When I go to my favorite steak house, I want steak. This movie serves up exactly what I like in a fresh, modern style that didn’t feel overly derivative or ironic.
But what I really loved about this film was the way the city of Los Angeles felt like the real main character. LA is a sprawling city perpetually viewed through car windows, so what better way to portray it on screen than from the inside of a taxi cab? This whole film is a visual love letter to my adopted city, and not just the obvious postcard locations either. I just about lost my shit when I spotted the King Eddy Saloon.
I could nitpick here and there. I wasn’t crazy about the meta-referential moment in which the main female character is dressed up in fake 40s femme fatale drag. Seemed a little too on-the-nose. I thought the sub-plot with the cabbie’s wife maybe needed a little work. But overall I dug this flick. Mistress Christa says check it out.