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Leaving Heel Marks on Our Consciousness

Still marketably cool, noir flows freely from the archives—the shadowy fatalism, rich racetrack patter, and character archetypes still leave heel marks on our consciousness. This 1947 Humphrey Bogart number, directed with impressive verve by Delmer Daves, begins with a San Quentin prison break; all we see is a pair of hands sneaking out of an oil barrel on a truck bed. In fact, for more than the first half-hour we don't see Bogart's wary, been-wronged con at all, just his p.o.v. and establishing shots, capturing his sense of alienation after being picked up by sympathetic artist Lauren Bacall and smuggled into San Francisco. Then a back-alley facelift and a seemingly hopeless drift toward salvation, with the wolves coming out of the woodwork. The structure and character sense of the David Goodis novel are intact, and a full-throttle supporting cast has a ball with meaty parts, particularly Tom D'Andrea as an interventionist cabbie and Houseley Stevenson as the black-market surgeon. It's an overlooked honey compared to the three other "Bogie & Bacall" box entries— To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), and Key Largo (1948)—which are each supp'd by docs and cartoons.

 
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