One Thing I Love Today: Bogart shines on new Warner Archive Blu-ray double feature

03.07.16 1 year ago

Warner Archive

One Thing I Love Today is a daily column dedicated to putting a spotlight on some pop culture item worth your attention. After all, there's enough snark out there. Why not start every day with one quick shotgun blast of positivity?

Over the weekend, I've been floored up with a nasty stomach bug. There's nothing worse. I hate that feeling of being pinned to the couch and turned inside out, and in moments like that, I turn to comfort food of the cinematic variety, since I can't keep anything else down.

Warner Archive, one of the companies still doing physical media in a smart and consumer-friendly way, just recently added two classic Humphrey Bogart titles to their library, and they were kind enough to send over both for review. I did a double feature of The Big Sleep and Key Largo while I was recovering this weekend, and in both cases, I was so absorbed in the new prints that I forgot to feel bad while they were playing.

I adore The Big Sleep. Crime fiction set in Los Angeles is a particular fetish of mine, and there are few figures that loom larger in that world than Raymond Chandler. His Phillip Marlowe is one of the great iconic LA private detectives, and Humphrey Bogart was a perfect choice to play him. It does make me laugh when Marlowe gives his age at 38 in the film. Bogart was a full decade older than that when he played the part, and he was one of those guys who looked 50 even when he really was in his 30s. He and Lauren Bacall are both electrifying whenever they're onscreen together in this film, their second together, and some of their strongest scenes were actually added in reshoots. Bogart's marriage was collapsing during the shoot, and he was debating leaving his wife for Bacall, and that tension seems to underscore their onscreen relationship as well.

This was made during one of the best stretches of Bogart's whole career, and two years later, he and Bacall worked together again for the last of four times in Key Largo. This was the follow-up to the terrific Treasure Of The Sierra Madre for director John Huston and Bogart, and it's interesting to see how Warner reacted to that film's massive budget and schedule. They kept Huston on the lot for this film, and it feels somewhat stagey, which seems fitting since it began life as a play by Maxwell Anderson. Much of the film depends on the chemistry between Bogart and the film's main bad guy, Edward G. Robinson, a gangster who plans to leave the country only to find himself trapped in a hotel in the Florida keys by an oncoming hurricane. The two of them seem to savor every moment of tension between the characters, and as a whole, the film works as a claustrophobic drama.

Both of the films have been given lovely new transfers, and black-and-white, when mastered properly, is one of the best things Blu-ray can do. There's something luminous about black-and-white, and I loved seeing that these films have been taken care of and transferred correctly. Physical media may not hold the same place in the market that it used to, but as long as companies are working to update their catalogs and make them available in the best possible formats, I'll keep buying these films to make sure that the studios see there are still collectors who appreciate what they're doing. These are both key films in the careers of the stars involved, and welcome additions to my permanent shelf.

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