Sunday, April 05, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Big Shot (1942) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

The year after starring in THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), Humphrey Bogart played unlucky crook Duke Berne in THE BIG SHOT (1942), recently released by the Warner Archive.

Duke has been released from prison after having spent a cumulative 20 years behind bars. If Duke returns to prison he'll likely be there for life, so he's determined to stay on the straight and narrow. However, a guy has to eat and it's hard for an ex-con to get a job.

Duke considers going in on an armored car heist, but his old love Lorna (Irene Manning of THE DESERT SONG) holds a gun on him, preventing him from participating. Despite not being involved, Duke is framed for the robbery. Lorna's crooked lawyer husband (Stanley Ridges) represents Duke but tanks his case when he learns his wife is in love with his client.

Lorna is determined to break Duke out of jail, but the path of true love -- or prison escapees -- never did run smoothly.

THE BIG SHOT is a solid gangster film with Bogart in something of a transitional early '40s role, playing a very sympathetic hard-luck bad guy. The viewer roots for him to get away and have a good new life in Canada, even while knowing the dream is likely to be short-lived.

Bogart is well-matched by Manning as the fiery Lorna; it initially seems as though Lorna might be a flashy "bad" dame but proves herself to be something else entirely.

Stanley Ridges plays a young man who gets in trouble providing Duke with an alibi for the armored car robbery, with Susan Peters as his sweet girlfriend. I'm a Peters fan so it was a treat to see her in this early role. That same year she moved over to MGM, where she was Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actress for RANDOM HARVEST (1942).

During the recent TCM Classic Film Festival I had the wonderful opportunity to tour the Warner Bros. backlot, where many sets which were in use decades ago are still standing. I believe I picked out a couple sets in the movie which I'd seen on the tour, including the two sets shown here.  I'll be posting more about the Warner Bros. tour at a future date.

THE BIG SHOT runs 82 minutes. It was directed by Lewis Seiler and filmed in black and white by Sid Hickox.

The supporting cast includes Howard da Silva, Minor Watson, Chick Chandler, Murray Alper, and Virginia Brissac. Character/supporting actor fave John Ridgely has a nice scene as an Irish policeman. Eleanor Parker is credited as the voice of the telephone operator.

The Warner Archive DVD is a fine print. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the WBShop.


Blogger Unknown said...

For me has one of the most under rated chase scene's.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know this one at all. Sounds worth catching.
Thanks for review.

1:06 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's a good point, Ronald, this does have a very nice snowy chase scene at the end.

Let me know what you think when you catch it, Vienna! I especially enjoyed the two leading ladies.

Best wishes,

6:25 PM  

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