Despite having heard of him for a number of years,I have somehow never got round to taking a look at a film starring Humphrey Bogart.Taking a look at movie reviews on IMDb a few months ago,I suddenly stumbled upon what sounded like an excellent Gangster movie starring Bogart.Expecting to find the title on Amazon,I was shocked to find out that the film had not come out on DVD,or VHS.Sadly accepting that I would probably be unable to see the film,I was pleasantly caught by surprise,when I discovered a TV screened edition of the title,which led to me excitingly getting ready to see Bogart take a big shot.
Lying in a prison hospital bed after surviving a shootout,Joseph "Duke" Berne is greeted by a former prisoner called George Anderson,who along with his girlfriend,wants to thank Joseph from stopping him being wrongly sent to death row.Feeling that this hospital bed,may soon become his death bed,"Duke" decides to tell Anderson about what led to him laying in this hospital bed.
Freed from prison after serving 5 years,Berne vows to leave his past life behind,and to instead "go straight".Soon after coming out of jail,Joseph runs into some old "friends" who ask if he can do them some favours.Angered about them trying to pull him back into the underworld,"Duke" pushes one of the gangsters to the ground,and tells him the that part of his life is now long gone.
Being told by one of his (now former "friends" ) that a local attorney called Martin T. Fleming is interested in talking to him,Joseph decides to pay Fleming a surprise visit.Entering Fleming's office,"Duke" is shocked to discover,that a former long time girlfriend of his's named Lorna,has now become Fleming's wife.
With having heard about Berne's past skills,Fleming asks Joseph if he would be willing to do "one last job",which would involve him working with a gang on Fleming's payroll to steal $100,000.Feeling that his back is up against the wall,"Duke" agrees to Flemings demands.
Later that night:
Getting ready to go out on his "one last job",Berne is stopped in his tracks,when Lorna's suddenly appears,holding a gun and telling Joseph that if he goes out to commit the crime,she will shoot him right away.Caving in to Lorna's demand's,"Duke" inadvertently ends up losing his last "big shot" at freedom.
View on the film:
Whilst the second half of the movie shows the title's age by featuring some
less than pc moments,such as one of the actors (not Bogart) covering himself with black pant,director Lewis Seiler and cinematography Sidney Hickox closely work together to give this wonderful Film Noir a raw,gritty atmosphere.
Going "back in time" to the events that have led to "Duke" being on his "death bed",by stylishly scattering images and voices across Berne's eyes,Seiler and Hickox gradually drain any sense of light from "Duke's" shadow filled world,as Berne finds his "going straight" road to disappear into the darkness.
Whilst Joseph Berne's nickname of "Duke" did leave me to temporary think about John Wayne, (aka:"Da Duke!") the terrific screenplay by Abem Finkel,Daniel Fuchs and Bertram Millhauser ruthlessly kicks "Duke's" body down their low-lit gutter street the moment his body lands on the hospital bed,with the writers showing Berne's big shot at freedom being something that he is unable to free from his shadowy past,and the ruthless corruption that will eventually choke the life out of him.
Showing that despite starting the movie in bed,that he is not going to give a performance laying down,Humphrey Bogart gives a powerful performance as Berne's,with Bogart showing "Duke's" desire to "go straight" to be at the centre of the character's conflicted heart,as Berne's discovers that everything he desires and holds dear is connected to his crocked past.
Joining Bogart,Stanley Ridges gives an excellent,gleeful performance as Martin T.Fleming,with Ridges showing Fleming to be prepared to do anything to get his hands filled with cash.Giving a vicious femme fatale swipe,the terrific Irene Manning gives a stunning performance as Lorna Fleming,with Manning showing "Duke" all of the temptations in front of him,as long as he gives up on his last ever big shot.
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