Saturday, 19 March 2011

Key Largo (1948) - John Huston

Edward G. Robinson going head to head with Bogart and Bacall in a noir directed and co written by John Huston. What's not to like? It's a real corker of a film that easily lives up to what you'd expect from it. Robinson is deliciously nasty as Johnny Rocco a gangster very much in the mold of those he spent his early years perfecting. Major Frank McCloud (Bogart) is at a loose end after WWII, and Nora (Bacall) is the widow of one of the men that died under him in Italy. So when Bogie turns up at the Key Largo hotel run by Bacall and her dead husbands Pa, to find it over run with Chicago's nastiest you know things aren't going to be smooth. Throw into that a subplot about some on the run native Americans and the police snooping around trying to find them, and just to up the ante there is the imminent arrival of the Miami mob. What more could you want for a tension filled hour and a half? Did someone say hurricane? Well there's one of them too.

This was the the third time round for Huston and Bogart, and the fourth and last film together for Bogie and Bacall. Edward G. gives Bogart's leading man status a run for it's money, the scene where he destroys Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor) is my favourite moment of the film. Just horrendous to watch. Despite having two huge actors like Bogart and Robinson, Huston manages to keep the film on an even keel. Robinson is kept out of sight for the first twenty minutes or so, when he does turn up he tears through the film in much the same way as the hurricane. The tension between him and Bogart builds slowly but surely throughout the film. The banter between them is as good as it gets in these type of affairs. Of course you know good will triumph, Bogie will get the girl and rid the world of Johnny Rocco, just as sure as you know James Bond won't die no matter what predicament he finds himself in.

The whole film is studio based, with just a smidgen of location second unit photography at the beginning just to set the scene. Everyone gets their close up, but as I said earlier it's the battle between the world weary Bogart and the O.G. of Robinson that's the real meat of the film. Key Largo builds and builds to the eventual show down between the two of them. It's one of those films that you never tire of watching, Huston was a man on fire during these years, knocking out classic after classic. This one (just like his others from this time) looks beautiful, just witness that last shot of Bacall opening the shutters and being engulfed in retina burning sunlight. Gorgeous.

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