Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Bogey Goes Batshit
It had been quite a while since I'd seen this. I think I was in my teens the last time, on late night TV. I had turned it on just as it started and surprised myself at watching enraptured all the way through. It was the first black & white movie I'd ever seen.
I remember being stunned that a moldy-oldy movie could be so good.
It finally came up in my Blockbuster queue and stunned me all over again.
For the few of you who don't know, it's about a couple down-on-their-luck Americans (Humphrey Bogart and Bob Curtin) stuck in Mexico who rent a spot in a flophouse and meet up with a grizzled old prospector (Walter Huston, director John Huston's father) who tells them about a gold deposit in the highlands.
This film really shows the range and true talent Bogey had. Early on he's the good guy, pitching in the extra funds needed to mount an expedition. But as the men slowly extract a fortune from the earth, greed and paranoia begin to set in. Bogey disintegrates from within and becomes his own disaster.
Seeing Bogart play Dobbs as a beggar at the beginning of the film (begging a few coins on several occasions from John Huston himself!) was jarring, after having seen him several times now in Casablanca, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, among others. He doesn't just go through the motions. He makes you believe he hasn't a friend in the world.
And his psychological collapse is played with incredible passion. You plead with the poor guy to pull himself together, but all he can do is fall and fall hard.
The other two fellas are brilliant as well. Bob Curtin as the decent, honest fellow plays it with clever understatement. He's not a stereotype, though, because while he's a good guy, he's not afraid to resort to violence to deal with a situation.
In fact, that too is part of the brilliance of this flick, in that all involved are, to some extent or another, flawed. They don't always make the right choices, and their morality is more wild west and therefore a little less recognizable today. Yet nothing of it seems out of place.
Much of this film was shot on location, something that wasn't much done in those days, but it makes the film that much immersive and exciting.
Anyway, loved it all over again, and you, my dear buds, should give it a shot again, or for the first time, as the case may be.