Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino, Alan Curtis
Director: Raoul Walsh
Roy Earle (Bogart) is a well known criminal recently released from prison, and whose old boss tasks him with aiding a group of inexperienced criminals to rob a resort. But of course, things aren’t going to go as planned.
Before this film, Bogart was still finding his feet as an actor taking roles as dull straight guys or smart alecs, but here he finally finds himself as a complex bad guy, a gangster with heart, a man on the wrong side of the law where the good guys are all hypocrits. He finally gets to show that side of himself that was the perfect anti-hero, and I’m glad he did, because he’s one of my favourite actors of all time, a lovable rogue.
The heist ultimately goes wrong, and ends in a high speed chase into the sierra and mountains that loom over the film and give it it’s title. But it’s how it all gets to that point that makes this film.
The machinations of the group of robbers and their stupidity is off set by Ida Lupino as a wise girl, a woman who can see that unless she gets involved, it’s all going to fall apart. She helps Roy understand the men he’s working with and helps him work around them too, but ultimately, though she’s falls for him, he’s taken with a sweet local girl he meets. She has a injury that needs surgery to correct, and is interested in Roy’s advances until she’s better, then she throws him over shallowly for a more conventional man. It’s a neat twist in the film that the two who are the smartest are not able to see that they’re perfect for each other, and also are not on the right side of the law, are not classic heroic types.
It’s a film of intrigue, of action and moral ambiguity. The good guys aren’t that nice, the bad guys are pretty thick, and the heroes of the film can’t seem to get together. There’s a sense that bad guys will never prosper, but I also love how fickle the supposed average good guys are. It feels a bit gritty. But I also love the romance, the girl in love with the guy who can’t see through the other girl. It’s a great love triangle, and one that’s sorted out all too late. Classic stuff.
See It If: you like your classic cinema with a little difference, a little subversion. Lupino and Bogart are both wonderful.