Whenever there’s mention of first-person POV camera, the word gimmick is never far away. 1947 was both a very good and a very bad year for this device, what with Robert Montgomery’s epically awkward opus The Lady in the Lady proving that the technique could be used as a murder weapon. It kills the movie and slays our patience.
By contrast, Dark Passage, another 1947 film noir, arguably handles the extended first-person camera gimmick better than any other movie before or since. Director Delmer Daves deploys it for maximum dynamic impact without slavishly restricting perspective.
The POV effect works most thrillingly during the opening sequence, a masterclass in economical storytelling. As the barrel carrying San Quentin escapee Vincent Parry rolls down a hill, the audience rolls down the hill with it, peering out of the circular opening at the blurry vegetation whizzing by outside.
Of course, we have no background on…
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