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Petrified Forest

Leslie Howard , Humphrey Bogart , Archie Mayo , Friz Freleng    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Product Description

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Adapted from a hit Broadway play by Robert Sherwood and starring original cast members Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart, this 1936 suspense drama is set in an aging desert roadhouse café, where a young woman (Bette Davis) dreams of escaping a dead-end existence spent with her father and a lunkheaded, would-be suitor. Along comes a penniless poet (Howard), a wanderer who has made a mess of his life and crossed the hot sands as a symbolic act of meaningful futility. Davis's waitress is instantly enchanted, and in short order they begin talking about heading out to the world together. Then a twist: the world comes to them--in the form of escaped convicts, led by the monosyllabic Duke Mantee (Bogart), who secretly agrees to the poet's request that the fugitive gangster kill him. Directed by Archie Mayo (The Great American Broadcast), much of the film, perhaps inevitably, looks set-bound. Most of the action occurs in the café, and the script's tension sadly dissipates a bit as villains and hostages stay glued to their seats. The film's enduring appeal has everything to do with the leading performances: the fascinating alchemy of Howard's ethereal air, Davis's sexy urgency, and Bogart's bemused menace. If the story feels a trifle dated and perhaps a bit smug, the actors make it compelling nonetheless. --Tom Keogh

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By Nix Pix
Format:DVD
The good people at Warner Home Video have outdone themselves on this sassy six pack of classic gangster films. The box set includes William Wellman's "The Public Enemy" (1931)a benchmark acheivement in crime cinema; Raoul Walsh's intense character study of criminal insanity, "White Heat" (1949)and his ode to the ultimate decade of decadence - "The Roaring Twenties" (1939); Robert E. Sherwood's Broadway blockbuster, "The Petrified Forest" (1936),"Little Caesar" (1931)and "Angels With Dirty Faces."
"The Public Enemy is the undisputed trend setting monarch of this box set with James Cagney in his breakout performance as bad boy Tom Powers, a deviant from the wrong side of the tracks who refuses to mellow with age. In "White Heat" Cagney plays the psychotic and sadistic Arthur 'Cody' Jarrett, a ruthless gang leader with a penchant for deriving pleasure from the affliction of pain. "The Petrified Forest" is basically two acts of melodrama with a crime thriller finish, pitting idealists, Alan Squier (Leslie Howard)and Gabby Maple (Bette Davis) against ruthless prison escapee, Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart). In "The Roaring Twenties" Cagney and Bogart unite as a pair of unlikely pals who scratch each other's back for a while, then tear one another to pieces. "Little Caesar" is the slightly off kilter recanting of the Al Capone story, told under the auspices of not so pure fiction. It's loveable fluff mixed with arsenic and twice as explosive with Edward G. Robinson in the driver's seat. And last, but certainly not least, is "Angels With Dirty Faces" a mix of empathy and excitement as two childhood buddies wind up on opposite sides of morality. Good versus evil never came out so good!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Maudlin Melodrama with A Bogie of a Finish March 5 2005
By Nix Pix
Format:DVD
Based on Robert E. Sherwood's Broadway blockbuster, "The Petrified Forest" (1936) is basically two acts of melodrama with a crime thriller finish. It stars Leslie Howard as cockeyed idealist, Alan Squier. Alan arrives at the ramshacked oasis of Maple Service Station - a little bit of nothin' presided over by Jason Maple (Porter Hall) and his drunken Grampa (Charles Grapewin). Fat Paula (Nina Campana) rounds out the motely crew in charge of eats and gas at this filling station in the middle of nowhere. The one jewel sparkling amidst the dessert heat is waitress, Gabby Maple (Betty Davis). She's just as cockeyed as Alan, aspiring to study art in Paris. After much lamentation - most of it needless, Gabby persuades a visiting couple, the Chisholms (Paul Harvey and Genevieve Tobin) to give Alan a ride to California. However, plans take a turn for the worst when everyone is forced to spend the night hold up inside the diner at the hands of ruthless prison escapee, Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart).
After some high stakes threats and more than a bit of action Alan creates the circumstances by which Gabby's aspirations for a better life will flourish.What elevates this minor bit of tripe from its humble roots are the brilliant performances by Davis and Bogart. Bogart, in particular, is menacing in a reserved sort of restraint. Although he rarely becomes animated or excited he always seems capable of becoming completely unhinged.
Years of viewing this film on late night television in less than stellar prints didn't have me holding out for much on this outing. I am pleased to report that Warner's newly mastered DVD is a quiet vision of beauty. The gray scale has been impeccibly rendered. Though blacks are soft and somewhat more deep gray than black, overall the contrast levels are superb.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating film debut for Humphrey Bogart Aug. 8 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Actually, this was not quite Bogart's debut. He had been in a few utterly forgettable films in tiny roles in the early 1930s before returning to Broadway, but this is his "real" debut.
THE PETRIFIED FOREST had been a highly successful stage play starring Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart, and Warner Brothers wanted to do a film version of it. They therefore approached Howard with the offer, indicating that they would like to have him reprise his starring role, and have him star opposite Edward G. Robinson as Duke Mantee. Howard, however, indicated that he would only make the film if his Broadway costar, Bogart, played Duke Mantee. At this point in his career, Bogart's acting career had consisted primarily in playing juvenile parts in various plays (the famous line "Tennis anyone?" is perhaps mythically attributed to one of his roles, but sums up the spirit of onstage persona) and failed attempts to break into film. Playing Duke Mantee had been a dramatic departure for Bogart, who had never previously played a heavy. Luckily for film history, Howard insisted that he would not make THE PETRIFIED FOREST unless Bogart played Mantee.
Historically, the most important thing about this film is that it launched Bogart's film career. Although he would spend the next four years playing a huge number of gangsters, he was, nonetheless, after this film, a Hollywood mainstay, becoming the number four gangster in the Warner Brother stable after Robinson, Cagney, and Raft.
THE PETRIFIED FOREST is, however, entertaining on its own. The one great negative of the film is the fact that it is very obviously a film version of a stage play. The action of the film is limited to only a few locations, and overall the production has a very static feel.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
These are spectacular films and this collection is well worth the investment. You can never see movies like this too many times, they never really get old. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Keith Little
5.0 out of 5 stars "Since I've been a grown up, I've spent most of my life in prison,...
Warner Bros. Pictures presents "THE PETRIFIED FOREST" (1936) (82 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Starring Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Dick... Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2011 by J. Lovins
5.0 out of 5 stars DVD Quality
The quality of this DVD was exceptional -- the picture is crystal clear and the audio is great. Some of the scenes filmed out of the diner were a bit fuzzy - but noticeable only... Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2011 by emuller
5.0 out of 5 stars The Crooks come home to Roost!
Warners has put six of its' best gangster flicks into this first volume of "Gangsters",and many still pack a mean wallop. Read more
Published on July 10 2009 by Robert Badgley
5.0 out of 5 stars Great transition from stage play to film
Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart were in the original Broadway play. And this was made again into a film called "Escape in the Desert. Read more
Published on July 5 2007 by bernie
4.0 out of 5 stars Should Be on DVD!!
I taped The Petrified Forest a couple of years ago when it was shown on TCM and I thought it was a very good movie! Read more
Published on March 18 2004 by Thebookwoman
2.0 out of 5 stars Leslie is the star, but Humphrey's the cover guy? Strange...
I could sum this up in a very brief paragraph, and I will, because it simply did not thrill me to the depths of my soul, leaving me appropriately petrified. Read more
Published on July 13 2002 by J B
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Story of Good vs. Evil Battle -- One of the Best
Humphrey Bogart and Leslie Howard reprise their stage roles as "bad guy/good guy" in this ever timely tale of greed and ruthlessness vs. selfless and compassionate courage. Read more
Published on June 27 2002 by Michael Mathena
5.0 out of 5 stars The Petrified Forest: Still Relevant
There are probably many reasons why THE PETRIFIED FOREST is as watchable today as it was in the 1930's. Read more
Published on June 9 2002 by Martin Asiner
5.0 out of 5 stars The Archetypical American Film
If I was to choose one film to show a foreigner what America was REALLY all about, this would be it. Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2002 by OAKSHAMAN
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