Gripping noir

In a Lonely PlaceI’m not a fanatical Bogart fan, but for a long time, I figured there were few good Bogart films I hadn’t seen, and fewer still (like none) that I didn’t at least know about.

Somehow, In A Lonely Place escaped my attention. That might have been because the original prints were in pretty bad shape and it rarely (if ever) showed up on teevee or video store aisles. Fortunately, not long ago, the film was restored and it’s now available on DVD.

In A Lonely Place is classic Noir. Set in 1950 Los Angeles with all the murder and intrigue a mystery fan could hope for. It’s also a love story. If you think every Hollywood film has a happy ending, you haven’t seen In A Lonely Place.

It’s the story of a screen writer who invites a young girl back to his apartment, then sends her on her way with cab fare. She is later murdered. The writer is accused of the crime, but a neighbor woman provides him with an alibi. Soon, the writer and neighbor fall in love. But the writer is a complex man who isn’t easy to adore. He is a man who is gentle and kind, but also hot tempered and thuggish. He is a man that viewers, and his lover, come to believe is capable of murder.

The script is deft and the plot artful and unpredictable. You are drawn into the characters pyschology both by their solid acting and by the construction of the film. It is beautifully shot (some great exterior scenes of 1950 Hollywood) and cut.

Bogart made so many wonderful films, but he may never have played a role better than Dixon Steele. He is both vulnerable and transparent and simmering with an unquenchable rage. He is cynical without being borish. He never overreaches for his anger, while leting his face tell stories words could never convey.

In the bonus material, a commentator says, “I’m not saying this is the greatest film every made …” I agree. But it is a perfect film. It is flawless in every way, and should be a must-see for every noir and Bogart fan.

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