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High Sierra Criterion Blu-ray Review

Humphrey Bogart elevates “High Sierra.”

In 1941’s “High Sierra,” the story revolves around a fresh out of prison gangster named Roy. Instead of going straight, Roy reverts back to his old ways by plotting to rob a hotel for a gangster named Big Mac. Leading up to the heist, Roy falls for a young woman (Velma), develops a connection with Marie (a woman who falls in with 2 of the heist crew members), and even befriends a dog named Pard. Will Roy doom himself again?

Skillfully directed by Raoul Walsh, “High Sierra” is part gangster movie, part film noir and part heist movie that has a bit of a western vibe to it. Unlike many films in these genres, the main character is not some hardened, greedy, uber violent, irredeemable criminal. Yes, he’s a tough criminal who ultimately has to pay for his crimes, but he’s a complex character. As is shown throughout the film, Roy has a heart. He revels in nature, he helps Velma fix her club foot, he develops a bond with a dog, and he clearly cares about Marie.

What really makes Roy such a compelling character though is Humphrey Bogart. Although there is much to admire about the film as a whole, Bogart’s presence and acting lifts it up. He gives you a reason to invest in this character and follow him on his journey. Ida Lupino also delivers a stellar performance as the equally complex Marie. Few actresses excelled in the film noir genre like she did.

One could argue that the script by John Huston and W.R. Burnett (who also authored the novel the film is based on) bides its time in the middle before the inevitable heist and climax, but I didn’t mind it too much because it delivered characterization. Besides, once the ending rolls around with a double cross, blazing guns, a car chase and a mountain climb (complete with stunning cinematography by Tony Gaudio), you’ll forget all about any shortcomings.


Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration gives this B&W film a crisp new transfer. There are noticeable print defects here and there, but they don’t detract from what is an otherwise impressive print.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? Viewers will be happy to know that this is a nice clean audio track.

* A booklet with credits and an essay by Imogen Sara Smith.
* “High Sierra” trailer.
* A new interview with film historian Miriam J. Petty about actor Willie Best.
* “Colorado Territory”- A 1949 “High Sierra” remake by Raoul Walsh. This one, however, is a western starring Joel McCrea. The film has its fans, but, to me, it pales in comparison to ‘Sierra.’ Sill, it’s great to get what is essentially a bonus Criterion movie that gets its own disc.
* “Curtains For Roy Earle”- A 2003 archival making of featurette.
* “Bogart> Here’s Looking At Your, Kid”- A 1997 documentary on the life and career of Humphrey Bogart from “The South Bank Show” TV series.
* A The Screen Guild Theater radio drama of “High Sierra” with Bogart and Lupino reprising their roles.
* A new video essay/1976 audio recording on author W.R. Burnett by Dennis L. White from the AFI.
* “The True Adventures Of Raoul Walsh”- A 95 minute 2019 documentary by Marilyn Ann Moss (which is based on her own book) about the filmmaker and his accomplished career.
* “Dave Kehr And Farran Smith Nehme”- A new conversation between film critic Farran Smith Nehme and film programmer Dave Kehr about Raoul Walsh.

October 18, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , ,

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