Humphrey Bogart: The Signature Collection Vol. 2

f classic Hollywood has a name, it must be Humphrey Bogart, so much so that one full collection could never possibly satisfy. Thus, Warner has issued this second collection of his starring vehicles, including a three-disc edition of the pioneering noir that made him a star. That picture would be The Maltese Falcon, in which Bogart’s gumshoe Sam Spade has to sort out the lies and the threats that surround a certain falcon statuette. An incredible cast (including Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook Jr.) is backed up by John Huston’s debut as director and the film crackles with style and wit. As counterpoint, the edition digs up two films from the same Dashiell Hammett novel: 1931’s The Maltese Falcon, (which is unfortunately and painfully stilted) and 1936’s Satan Met a Lady (which is reasonably funny but more Thin Man than film noir). Those who can’t get enough of Bogart, Huston and Astor in that film are advised to make tracks for Across the Pacific, where our man must stop Greenstreet and some Japanese saboteurs. A smart script delivers some sharp exchanges between the romantic leads and the strong direction makes the film flow smoothly and pleasurably. Such, alas, cannot be said of All Through the Night, in which Bogart is a gangster who goes up against some Fifth Columnists; this, apparently is what happens when you knock off his favourite cheesecake vendor. The crooks vs. Nazis idea isn’t mined for its full absurdity and the resulting film is game enough but falls resolutely flat. Somewhat better is Passage to Marseille, with the star escaping Devil’s Island prison only to run into a Nazi attack during the days of France’s surrender; it’s a fairly proficient Michael Curtiz action job but don’t expect fireworks or any claims to greatness. Finally, Action in the North Atlantic is a surprisingly stirring propaganda effort about the Merchant Marines, and while it’s full of patriotic speechifying it has a nice selection of amiable stereotypes, as well as some tense confrontations with German U-boats. Despite its distended over two-hour length, it’s fairly gripping right to the end. Extras include selections of newsreels, short subjects and cartoons for every movie, as well as a smattering of commentaries, blooper reels, trailers, and three radio show adaptations of The Maltese Falcon. (Warner)