My big reason for recording this was a strong recommendation from Tequila (later corroborated by pixote) and the excitement of watching Bogart and Bette Davis together on screen. They are both amazing as usual. Bogart is just wonderful as a thug with principles and a human side and Bette is young and pretty and has incredible presence as usual. But I had no idea Leslie Howard was this good. I remembering him from Casablanca and also watched him in Of Human Bondage several years ago but this is the first film in which he made an impression on me.
The movie itself was really theatrical and play-like (pix had warned me about this) but that really didn’t bother me at all. I loved the opening image in the dusty lonesome desert where we see a man with a backpack just walking with the road stretching seemingly endlessly in front of him. In the meantime, we see Bette Davis spend her days reading poetry and dreaming about France in what seems to be a last-chance-to-fill-up gas-station cafe. I loved these characters – the intellectual who seems to have withered away his potential and aged far too quickly, Duke who seems to possess a quiet rage and a mocking tone and yet compassionate in his own way, the grandfather who romanticizes the past and keeps telling stories about being shot by Billy the Kid, the rich guy’s neglected wife and Slim Thompson (another huge surprise for me). I was also really surprised by the speech that Slim gets to make in the film. Felt way ahead of it’s time to me at least. The fact that they are all stuck in a single room for almost the entire film really adds to the intensity of the proceedings.
I ended up falling asleep the first time I started watching this which is really surprising considering how much fun the whole film really is. The performances are all great but so is the entire film with all it’s many layers. There’s a love story that’s really credible and sweet given how little time it has to develop, a holdup, social satire and action even. So great. I wonder if I should read the play one of these days.