Dark Passage gets off to a rickety start, with a heavy reliance on first-person perspective, a device that never becomes more than a gimmick (which suggests that Orson Welles’ planned, but never made, first-person adaptation of Heart of Darkness might not have been a great idea, even if Welles’ command of cinematic language exceeds that of Delmer Daves). But once protagonist Vincent Parry emerges from plastic surgery with the unforgettable face of Humphrey Bogart, the movie takes off, with double-crosses and paranoia to spare. It’s all preposterous stuff, not the high artistic point for film noir (and, indeed, not even the high artistic point for the Bogart/Bacall collaborations), but it has enormous entertainment value.
I submit that Dark Passage has one of the better noir endings, an irresistible mix of tragedy and Hollywood schmaltz: Parry, framed for murder and unable to prove his innocence, departs the USA for exile in tropical paradise. Drinking alone at a club, Parry looks up to see his love, Irene Jansen (the impudently beautiful Lauren Bacall) appear. The couple is reunited and Franz Waxman’s music swells into a final crescendo. As Bogart murmured in another famous noir: it’s the stuff that dreams are made of.