Most helpful positive review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Should I stutter?
on May 24, 2004
In order to follow merely the plot of this story the first time round you need a brain that goes clickety-click fast enough to match Bogart's machine-gun-like delivery. I can't believe anyone ever talked as fast as he did on film. Partly because the plot is so intricate, it gets better each time you see it: everything eventually falls into place with perfect logic. But there's very much more to it. There's a terrific undertow of all kinds of deeper meanings below the surface: the campy amorality of the misfit crooks with their greed and false values, pursuing nothing. The ferocious bitterness in Bogart's staccato angel, precious, darling, sweetheart. It's as if he hated the whole female race. There's no love here, just off-screen pairing. It's pointless to complain that Mary Astor is melodramatic. That's the whole point of her character: she doesn't lie in order to gain some advantage, it's her feminine nature to put on an act, deceive and mislead. Her opposite is the role of the staunch and loyal secretary: "You're a good man, sister!" In fact the whole movie is suffused with gender-bending confusion. The cops are a couple of boyfriends. The womanising jerk, Archer, is Bogart's partner. Add to this the fantastic character-acting of, especially, Sydney Greenstreet. An amazing screen presence, he really was. This is a film which matures the more you see it, and it is definitely for the mature. I didn't think much of it, the first time I saw it.