Humphrey Bogart has always been one of my personal favorites amongst leading men during Hollywood’s golden age. Bogart was a real movie star, who had screen charisma and genuine acting ability in place of good looks, which is pretty much what passes for talent these days. What made Bogart special was the fact that he had a rough everyman quality that made him easy to identify with back during his heyday, and it is that quality, in addition to his undeniable talent, which makes him one of the silver screen’s greatest icons- if not its greatest icon. Recognizing his legendary stature, Warner Home Video has released HUMPHREY BOGART: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION, VOLUME II ($60), which features four new to DVD films, as well as a Three-Disc Special Edition of one of Bogart’s greatest classics.
THE MALTESE FALCON
In the realm of cinema, THE MALTESE FALCON truly is the stuff that dreams are made of. Not only did THE MALTESE FALCON serve as the directorial debut of one of filmdom’s most celebrated directors- John Huston, this film set Humphrey Bogart’s feet on the road to becoming one of the cinema’s most enduring leading men. John Huston adapted his screenplay for THE MALTESE FALCON from Dashiell Hammett’s novel, which had been filmed twice before with far less successful results. Huston obviously understood the material better than anyone else; because it allowed him to visualize THE MALTESE FALCON in such an unforgettable way that it helped shape a genre that would come to be known to as film noir. Thanks to Huston’s guiding hand, as well as an impeccable cast, THE MALTESE FALCON has since gone on to being recognized as one of the 100 greatest films of all time by the American Film Institute.
THE MALTESE FALCON is a hard-boiled detective story with Humphrey Bogart portraying the greatest of hard-boiled private detectives- Sam Spade. The film opens with a beautiful woman named Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) needing a detective to follow the man she claims knows the whereabouts of her missing sister. Even though Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) know Miss O'Shaughnessy is hiding something, they take her case, since she willingly overpaid for their services. Unfortunately, the case turns out to be far more complicated than Spaded expected, with both Archer and the man he was following turning up dead. With the police looking to pin something on him, Spade decides he better solve both crimes himself.
Since she started this unfortunate chain of events in motion, Spade becomes further involved with Miss O'Shaughnessy, who leads him into a web of lies, greed and murder. The pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place when Spade encounters Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet), two of Miss O'Shaughnessy’s less savory acquaintances. It seems both men are trying to recover a black enameled statue known as The Maltese Falcon, which they believe to be in Miss O'Shaughnessy’s possession. Why so much bother over the black bird? Well, you’ll have to watch THE MALTESE FALCON to discover its secrets. The cast of THE MALTESE FALCON also includes Gladys George, Barton MacLane, Lee Patrick, Ward Bond, Elisha Cook Jr., James Burke, Murray Alper and John Hamilton.
ACROSS THE PACIFIC
While ACROSS THE PACIFIC reunites Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet and director John Huston, this spy/espionage thriller isn’t of the same caliber as THE MALTESE FALCON. Sure, the talent pool keeps elevating the film’s entertainment value, and having a rather high number of humorous moments throughout doesn’t hurt the proceedings either, but this follow-up still isn’t THE MALTESE FALCON. The plot of ACROSS THE PACIFIC finds Bogart portraying Rick Leland, a court-martialed former serviceman who is seemingly willing to sell his services to the highest bidder. This, of course, lands Leland on a ship bound for the orient, where our former military man comes across a nest of Japanese spies plotting to bomb the Panama Canal. The cast of ACROSS THE PACIFIC also features Charles Halton, Victor Sen Yung, Roland Got, Lee Tung Foo, Frank Wilcox, Paul Stanton, Lester Matthews, John Hamilton, Tom Stevenson, Roland Drew, Monte Blue, Chester Gan, Richard Loo and Keye Luke.
ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC
Another of Bogart’s WWII era films, ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC was created to serve as a tribute to the contributions of those unsung heroes in the Merchant Marine. Featuring a good dose of action and an even bigger dose of flag waving, ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC mixes plenty of entertainment value with the necessities of wartime propaganda. In ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC, Bogart takes on the role of Lieutenant Joe Rossi, the First Officer on a ship, which is sunk by a German U-Boat early in the film. Rossi and his commanding officer Captain Steve Jarvis (Raymond Massey) are amongst the survivors, who are ultimately reunited onboard a new ship, where they once again find themselves under attack from German forces. The cast of ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC also includes Alan Hale, Julie Bishop, Ruth Gordon, Sam Levene, Dane Clark, Peter Whitney and Dick Hogan.
ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT
Although decidedly a Hollywood propaganda piece designed to paint Germany in a harsh light in the days prior to America’s entry into WWII, ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT is also something of a personal favorite amongst Bogart movies because of high levels of comedy and a dynamite supporting cast of marvelous character actors. In ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT, Bogart portrays promoter/gambler Gloves' Donahue, who finds himself up to his eyeballs in fifth columnists, after a kindly old baker is murdered. Because the baker is the man responsible for Gloves’ favorite cheesecake and a close personal friend to Gloves’ mother, our gambler and his cronies start snooping around the murder investigation, which not only lands them in hot water with the law, but also leads to a network of Nazi agents operating on U.S. soil. The top notch supporting cast of ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT also features Conrad Veidt, Kaaren Verne, Jane Darwell, Frank McHugh, Peter Lorre, Judith Anderson, William Demarest, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, Wallace Ford, Barton MacLane, Edward Brophy, Martin Kosleck, Jean Ames, Ludwig Stössel and Irene Seidner.
PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE
PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE offers another slice of Hollywood wartime propaganda, although the film is from the perspective of the Free French doing their bit against the Nazi’s during the time of France’s occupation. While the film is enjoyable due to the presence of Bogart and an excellent supporting cast, not to mention the stewardship of director Michael Curtiz, the plot is a bit too convoluted for its own good, due to numerous flashback sequences required wade the audience through the film’s extensive exposition. In PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE, Bogart portrays French journalist Jean Matrac, who finds himself framed for murder by the Fascists, sentenced to Devil’s Island, from which he escapes; then Matrac helps fend off a mutiny while trying to return home, which ultimately results in him becoming a member of a bomber crew flying missions against the Germans. The cast of PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE also includes Claude Rains, Michèle Morgan, Philip Dorn, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, George Tobias, Helmut Dantine, John Loder, Victor Francen, Vladimir Sokoloff, Eduardo Ciannelli and Corinna Mura.
Warner Home Video has made all the movies that comprise the HUMPHREY BOGART: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION, VOLUME II available on DVD in the proper 4:3 full screen aspect ratios of their theatrical releases. Video quality ranges from outstanding to very good, Warner obviously put a lot of effort into the titles in this collection and it shows. THE MALTESE FALCON is stunning, with ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT and PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE running a close second and third- the rest look just merely superior to other films of the same vintage released by other companies that don’t put as much care into their products. Across the board, all of the films are offered in very sharp and highly defined presentations. These monochromatic films feature deep blacks, crisp whites, with excellent contrast and grayscale. Film grain is noticeable to varying degrees within the films themselves, with stock footage always standing out like a sore thumb. The films have all undergone some sort of digital cleanup, which elevates most of the major signs of age. Most of the films appear nearly pristine, although minor inconsistencies remain in a couple of the movies. Digital compression artifacts aren’t a concern anywhere in the collection.
All of the films in the HUMPHREY BOGART: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION, VOLUME II come with fine sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. As expected, virtually all of background hiss and audible anomalies have been cleaned during the mastering process. Fidelity has the expected limitations of films from the 1940s; the music is lacks a genuine top or bottom end, and the sound effects can be less than convincing. Fortunately, dialogue is always crisp and completely understandable. No other language tracks have been included on the DVDs, but English, French and Spanish subtitles are provided.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements that have been spread out across the collection. The most extensive supplements are attached to THE MALTESE FALCON, which comes in a Three-Disc Special Edition. Disc one features a running audio commentary with Humphrey Bogart biographer Eric Lax Disc, plus a Warner Night At The Movies 1941 Short Subjects Gallery featuring vintage newsreels, Technicolor musical short The Gay Parisian, classic cartoons Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt and Meet John Doughboy, plus Theatrical Trailers for THE MALTESE FALCON and SERGEANT YORK. Disc two features the 1931 version of THE MALTESE FALCON, as well as the 1936 version of the story released under the title SATAN MET A LADY starring Bette Davis. Disc three features the documentary The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird, the Turner Classic Movies Program Becoming Attractions hosted by Robert Osborne featuring The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart, a Studio Blooper Reel entitled Breakdowns Of 1941, Makeup Tests and finally, 3 radio adaptations of THE MALTESE FALCON including one featuring Edward G. Robinson.
ACROSS THE PACIFIC comes with the Warner Night At The Movies 1942 Short Subjects Gallery featuring: vintage newsreel, patriotic Technicolor short Men Of The Sky, classic cartoon The Draft Horse, Theatrical Trailers for ACROSS THE PACIFIC and CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS, a new featurette entitled Hollywood Helps The Cause, plus Studio Blooper Reel entitled Breakdowns of 1942.
ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC comes with the Warner Night At The Movies 1943 Short Subjects Gallery featuring: vintage newsreel, musical short Cavalcade Of Dance, classic cartoon Greetings Bait, Theatrical Trailers for ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC and NORTHERN PURSUIT, a new featurette entitled Credit Where Credit Is Due, plus a radio adaptation featuring George Raft and Raymond Massey.
ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT features a running audio commentary with director Vincent Sherman and Bogart biographer Eric Lax, plus the DVD also comes with the Warner Night At The Movies 1942 Short Subjects Gallery featuring: vintage newsreel, Joe Doakes comedy short So You Want to Give Up Smoking, classic cartoon Lights Fantastic, Theatrical Trailers for ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT and GENTLEMAN JIM, a new featurette entitled Call The Usual Subjects: The Craft Of The Character Actor.
PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE comes with the Warner Night At The Movies 1944 Short Subjects Gallery featuring: vintage newsreel, patriotic short I Won't Play, musical short Jammin' The Blues, classic cartoon The Weakly Reporter, a new featurette entitled The Free French: Forgotten Unsung Victors, plus Studio Blooper Reel entitled Breakdowns of 1944.
Humphrey Bogart is a cinematic icon second to none. Warner has done their usual amazing job with their DVD release of HUMPHREY BOGART: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION, VOLUME II offering excellent presentations and thoughtful extras. Absolutely recommended.
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