Gather together a group of Hollywood legends and something great usually will happen in the case of the 1948 Key Largo, director John Huston re-teamed with his Maltese Falcon star Humphrey Bogart to translate Maxwell Anderson's gritty stage play to the big screen, joined by Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, and Lionel Barrymore. Bogart is Frank McCloud, a former World War II army officer who visits the Florida Keys to meet innkeeper James Temple (Barrymore), whose son died in combat under McCloud's command. But the awkward, bittersweet meeting is soon overshadowed by a conspiracy of crooks, led by Johnny Rocco (Robinson), who take over the hotel in a bid to escape to Cuba as a hurricane approaches and American agents search for them. To see Bogart share the screen with Robinson is a great delight Bogart turns in one of his most stoic, dispassionate roles, while Robinson's stogie-chewing, pistol-waving gangster is sheer menace. Huston's unique directorial style which contributed substantially to the American noir genre is fully evident, with deep-focus multi-character compositions (in one tableau, no less than seven characters are contained within the 1.33 frame), and when Huston isn't drawing chalk marks on the floor to get these fabulous shots, he goes for the close-ups, filling the entire frame with Bogart or Robinson and creating intimacy from a script that was originally meant to be performed on the stage (Huston wasn't hurt by having Karl Freund, director of the 1932 The Mummy and one of the great cinematographers of German and American cinema, behind the camera). The score, by the legendary Max Steiner (Casablanca), is at times overly florid and distracting, but in many sequences (particularly the hurricane), it meshes with the subject matter nicely. Warner's DVD of Key Largo offers a solid transfer from a clean source print with no severe damage and good low-contrast details. The audio (mono) is crisp and full, with no discernible drop-outs. Trailer, snap-case (reissued in keep-case in July 2006).
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