(Review originally written at 8 April 2008)

It's hard to imaging these days but there was a time when Humphrey Bogart was nothing more than an actor who always played secondary character roles, in the shadow of the movie its main character. For instance behind George Raft, who was a much bigger star at the time but also female leads such as Ida Lupino, who also stars in this movie. But Raft then turned down roles for movies such as this movie "High Sierra", "The Maltese Falcon" and "Casablanca". All roles that were then past on to Bogart instead. Roles that truly launched his career to an amazing height, surpassing George Raft by far. Still, he didn't received top-billing for this movie yet. That honor once more went to Ida Lupino, even though Bogart's role is much bigger and is unquestionably the main character of the movie. Ida Lupino was just a better selling name, which says something of the time period and point of Bogart's career this movie got made in. This movie really marked his big breakthrough and after this he would mostly only land roles as a top-billing actor, in movies such as "Casablanca", "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and "The Maltese Falcon".

But what makes this movie so great is not just Bogart but also really the movie its story and directing from Raoul Walsh.

The story is written by John Huston, who is better known as an actor and director than a writer, even though he wrote the screenplay for many fine movies. This is also truly one of those movies. It's really no formulaic story and truly highly original and therefor also compelling. The main character is in love with a girl who isn't in love with him, while there is another girl who is in love with him, though his heart is still with this other girl. Sounds melodramatic and perhaps confusing but it's something really refreshing to see and makes the story and character developments progress in a way you wouldn't always expect it to. On top of that there is a main plot-line involving a robbery but really the movie is mostly about its central character. This movie just has basically everything in its story that is needed to make a great movie with. Add to that the performance from Bogart and the fantastic directing from Raoul Walsh and you have a great, tense, entertaining, fast going and original classic movie.

It's not really fully a film-noir, since that genre was still pretty much non-existent at that time and was still a work in progress. This movie does show some noir tendencies, mostly with its lead character, female roles and the main plot line involving a robbery but it's not quite noir enough in its style to fully consider this a pure film-noir. It's the other Humphrey Bogart from later in the same year, "The Maltese Falcon" that is widely considered to be one of the first real film-noir's. Ironicly it was a movie directed by John Huston, the man who wrote the screenplay for this movie.

The movie also features some surprising good action sequences. You have to remember that this is an 1941, when the action genre was still something non-existent but director Raoul Walsh knows to create a couple of good looking action sequences with camera-positions and editing you would expect from an action movie that is being made this present day. Especially the car chases within this movie are memorable.

Interestingly enough director Raoul Walsh himself remade this movie 8 years later into a western movie "Colorado Territory", that might not be as good as this original but it's just as good, intriguing and entertaining on its own and remains an under-appreciated movie.

A real perfect classic and still an unique movie to watch.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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