Dark Passage (1947)
I bet that somewhere out there, at this very moment, there are people who either haven't heard the phrase or don't understand the phrase "Silver Screen." I wouldn't hold it against anyone honestly, media of all kinds is very much one of those things that gets passed down from a generation as preferential recommendations, and not everyone can get over such arbitrary things as a colorized screen or up-to-date effects. For me however, tapping into the "old world" just means access to new (for me) stories from a time when storytelling had very different means. Put on you pinstripes gentlefolk, it's time to delve into a mystery!
A convict escapes from prison. He monologues to himself about his thought chain - such as how he has about fifteen minutes at best before his plan has passed the point of being able to be successful. Lucky for him, a motorist is passing by as he checks the road and gives him a ride. Unfortunately for him, the motorist is an incredibly chatty and curious type, constantly asking him potentially compromising questions. His luck turns even more south after the radio broadcasts his escape and description, cluing in the inquisitive driver and prompting some quick punches to the face from the convict. He drags the body out the car and off the road, stealing the mans suit and shoes, only to have a mysterious woman who seems to know a surprising amount summon him into her car.
After a number of tense dealings with cops and roadblocks, we discover that the woman is quite the smart one - sharp as a knife and all but aware of the situation and how each thing that arises could potentially play out, but also still keeping a mystery about herself and her actions. It isn't until they arrive safely to her apartment we find out that she is a supporter of his - a person who doesn't believe that he is the murderer the jury says he is, having even written a letter to the paper about how his trial was a horrid excuse of an affair. She tells him he should stay there and wanders out to go get him some new clothes. As luck would have it, the convict notices a familiar face through the peephole when a friend of the woman comes knocking at the door - the lady whose the main reason he was in jail to begin with.
Not wanting to get the mysterious woman involved any more than she need be, the convict seeks out an old friend, and happens along a chance meeting to get a little plastic surgery along the way. His luck, ever the persistent thing, once again turns south when he returns to his friends place however, as he finds him dead on the floor - murdered with his own trumpet. The criminal knows he'll be to blame for this, and finds he has nowhere else to go but back to the mysterious woman to recover from his surgery. On the way there, he notices a familiar car in the lot - but on the verge of passing out doesn't have the time to really look into it at all. Can the convict discover who framed him from murder and escape the police to live a new life?
One of the main things that immediately set upon me during the opening act of the film was the perspective - that is, the fact that the camera, outside of a few shots, stuck to a first person view of the convict. Sure, every now and then you'll cut outside of him and see stuff from a different angle - such as when another character is driving - but even then it shrouds the man in darkness or otherwise hides his face from the camera, adding an air of mystery. This changes after the facial reconstruction, switching to a more typical manner of filming for the rest of the movie, but it does a good job of grabbing ones attention right away. Outside of some projection shots (for the younger folks, think old-school 'greenscreens') this is really the only effect that's had throughout the movie, beyond one "trip" scene while under anesthetics and a little bit of blood on the murdered friend.
While some would balk at the idea of a movie all in black and white, it does help add a certain feel to it. In some scenes, the use of lighting actually enhances mystery and focal points from a viewers perspective - such as the taxi travel scene. In another way, it just makes it feel like that sort of old-timey detective affair where "some dame walks in, and it had to be her." Granted, that last bit does feel a little bit misleading, as although there is quite a bit of mystery floating around - is the criminal really a murderer? What's that car doing there? What's with the woman? - it isn't really a straight detective affair as much as it is almost a retrospective murder mystery. Of course, some will guess the "who done it" portion rather quickly when it's pitched, but I do feel that there is enough setup that it leaves a few wiggling possibilities for the common person to slightly doubt their initial guesses.
Actors do a great job here, even if things can feel a little over-dramatic at times. Personally, I wouldn't fault it for this, as the silver screen style was far closer to that of an actual play then the modern set-piece and awe tactics of the modern film, and as such some over-acting of things would be a bit expected to add emphasis or clearly show an audience the emotions going on. Music is nice, although nothing particularly outstanding - although the one or two sets of swing might get stuck in some folk's head. There's certainly some rather romantic heavy emotion scenes in the movie - again, usually containing a bit of that over-drama - and at times it really feels more like it should be considered a romance flick under the genre categories (which I certainly would have put it as, had I not gotten all the categories straight from IMDB).
This is a movie that people who like this sort of movies will love. It seems like a cheap, silly way of stating it, but that's the best way I can come up with it. If you've seen those classic old black-and-white mystery and romance kind of films and enjoyed them, this one shouldn't be any different. Although I wouldn't go as far as to call it as memorable as Casablanca, I do still consider it in that vain of movie. Proponents of "has to be color" or "must be high def!" will most likely desire a different movie, but you can't please everyone with everything, so the rest might find it an enjoyable little movie.