TCM Vault: Humphrey Bogart – The Columbia Pictures Collection

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Honorary Bogie Box Set Fix:

4 Bogie

The Lowdown

There are a bunch of Humphrey Bogart box sets out there. Gangster collections. Warner Brothers collections. A Bacall and Bogart pack. Etc…

Most consumers will probably look first to the colossal, 24-film 12-disc set Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection as it contains not only his most popular films, but also such a treasure trove of extras that I haven’t even made it through them all yet. (There are even tons of postcard-sized posters, stills, lobby cards, and personal letters from and about Bogart.) That review will come, but this one focuses more on the slightly lesser known gem,  TCM’s 5-disc Columbia Pictures Collection.

While the extras are few and far between compared to The Essential Collection, what makes The Columbia Pictures Collection a great addition to any Classic Film fan’s library is the fact that TCM has bundled together four of Bogart’s later films (Knock on Any Door, Tokyo Joe, Sirocco, and The Harder They Fall) as well as an early, pre-Warner Brothers, 1932 Love Affair.

While you could track all five down separately, here they are gathered together, restored and remastered, at a price that’s more-than-likely cheaper than what you would pay for them individually. Plus, being a TCM release, you get a really nice Ben Mankiewicz intro to each film just as if you were watching it broadcast on the channel itself.

Beyond the Mankiewicz intros, the other extras on the DVDs aren’t stellar. Unlike The Essential Collection’s DVD extras and hands-on goodies, here you only get DVD stills of lobby cards, publicity shots, and movie posters – none of which mean much unless you need some new computer backgrounds. The reward from this box set is the collection of films itself.

Would this be the first set you should buy? Well, if you’ve got another 20 bucks, go with The Essential Collection. But when you’re ready to move on from the Warner Brothers fare, this set is nice addition. The films look great, come at a great price, and save you the hassle of trolling through Amazon and Ebay to put them together yourself.

What’s Included?

DISC 1 – Love Affair – 1932

Love Affair Poster

Plot

Carol Owen (Dorothy Mackaill) is a wealthy young socialite who falls for a local flight instructor (Humphrey Bogart), while at the same time keeping a rich older suitor (Hale Hamilton) on the side. Unbeknownst to Owen and the flight instructor, the rich older suitor is also having a private affair with the flight instructor’s sister (Astrid Allwyn) who’s trying to swindle him out of enough money to stage a play.

What I Thought

I was more than pleasantly surprised by this film. Being Bogart’s first real leading role, and having heard very little about it, I expected that Love Affair might be a little bit of a mess. It’s more than worth a watch, though. The print is great for a 1932 film, Ben Mankiewicz gives it a nice introduction, and the overall quality of the film should offer plenty of entertainment to even the casual Bogart fan despite the plot which is a bit over complicated.

The DVD Extras

*Ben Mankiewicz Intro

*Scene Stills

*Humphrey Bogart Biography

*Lobby Card Stills

*Movie Poster Still

You can read my original post on the film here.

DISC 2 – Knock on Any Door – 1949

Knock On Any Door Poster

The Plot

An attorney (Humphrey Bogart) who escaped a history of crime and poverty must defend a young hoodlum (John Derek) accused of murdering a policeman.

What I Thought

First of all, before you watch this film, don’t read any of the reviews or synopses on the web. A few of them actually give away the ending in the first paragraph, and it always bugs me a little bit that people think they can get away with that because it’s a “classic” film.

Knock on Any Door was the first film produced by Bogart’s film production company, Santana, and I would have to say that it was a great film for Bogart’s crew to start with. Based on the bestselling book by Willard Motley, Bogart handpicked Director Nicholas Ray after being impressed by his directorial debut in They Live by Night. It’s a partnership that would go on to produce one of my favorite Bogart films, In a Lonely Place.

There have been reviews written that accuse this film of doing some over-the-top grandstanding, preaching on the dangers of social injustice. I couldn’t disagree more. How our country treats the lower class is most definitely not a black-and-white issue, and I think Director Ray makes sure to leave us on an authentic moment of uncertainty at the end of the film. People that we might consider “bad guys” aren’t always bad guys. Heroes we look up to sometimes make life and death mistakes. Knock on Any Door is less a movie about our country’s war on poverty, and more a film about our societal struggle with the flawed criminal justice system.

The DVD Extras

*Ben Mankiewicz Intro

*Publicity Stills

*Movie Poster Stills

*Behind the Scenes Photo Stills

*Scene Stills

You can read my original post on the film here.

DISC 3 – Tokyo Joe – 1949

Tokyo Joe Poster

The Plot

An American (Humphrey Bogart) returns to Tokyo after World War II to pick up the pieces of his broken marriage and his former nightclub, the ‘Tokyo Joe.’

What I Thought

The critics who initially treated this one roughly were pretty much on the nose. This film is held back greatly by a script and a director that don’t seem to know what tone they want to set for their main protagonist. I think we’re supposed to root for Bogart’s returning war vet just as much as we did for Rick Blaine in Casablanca. At least, that’s the feeling I’m left with as we watch him fight for the love of his life and rekindle his friendship with his former nightclub partner and best friend. The problem is, early on in the film we’re introduced to Bogart as a man who dumped his wife, ditched her to die in a hostile country, and then returns to reclaim her, only to resort to blackmail before turning over a new leaf. It’s kind of like if Casablanca had been made from Ilsa’s perspective. Does it make sense? Sure. Is it a little tough to feel sympathy for someone that doesn’t always make the most sympathetic choices. Yup.

The DVD Extras

*Ben Mankiewicz Intro

*Lobby Card Stills

*Scene Stills

*Behind the Scenes Photo Stills

*Publicity Stills

*Movie Poster Stills

You can read my original post on the film here.

DISC 4 – Sirocco – 1951

Sirocco

The Plot

A black market gun dealer (Humphrey Bogart) sells weapons and ammo to the Syrians as they revolt against their French occupiers in 1925, only to fall in love with the girlfriend (Märta Torén) of a French Colonel (Lee J. Cobb) in charge of tracking him down.

What I Thought

If this was the best film on the 5-disc set, it’d be worth it.

During the film’s introduction, Ben Mankiewicz acknowledges the criticism that the film has received for aping Casablanca, but he also points out that watching the film removed from the era helps the enjoyment of it quite a bit. I would agree 100%.

Yes, we have expatriate Bogart involved in some criminal operations in a foreign occupied country. And yeah, there is a woman involved, who also happens to be involved with a man who’s doing his best to become a martyr for his cause. But I think Sirocco does a good job of finding its own legs as it diverts away from many of the more iconic qualities that we think about when we consider Casablanca.

Bogart’s gun dealer is darker and less trustworthy than Rick Blaine. The whole setting is less fun. There is a more urgent feeling of death around every corner, and so the swagger and aloofness of a Rick Blaine does not play off to same effect here as it did in the previous blockbuster.

Cobb and Torén are great. Everett Sloane does a great job as a French General. And there’s tons of local Sirocco flavor added in that it makes for a very compelling film.

The DVD Extras

*Ben Mankiewicz Intro

*Publicity Stills

*Movie Poster Stills

*Lobby Card Stills

*Scene Stills

You can read my original post on the film here.

DISC 5 – The Harder They Fall – 1956

The Harder They Fall Poster

The Plot

An out-of-work sportswriter (Humphrey Bogart) grows desperate enough for a paycheck that he takes a job from an underhanded boxing promoter (Rod Steiger) at the expense of his own integrity.

What I Thought

Before the film begins, Ben Mankiewicz mentions that Bogart wasn’t particularly fond of Rod Steiger’s acting style. Bogart apparently thought Steiger was “overacting,” so he downplayed his own performance to counter balance their scenes together. While Steiger chewed the scenery, Bogart calmly leaned back and watched him go.

Knowing this as the film begins gives you an interesting perspective on the film as a whole. Was Steiger overacting? I don’t think so, but I can see how Bogart might have thought that he was. Steiger had come out of The Actor’s Studio, and no doubt had trained heavily in the new and controversial “method acting” style that was about to take Hollywood by storm. Bogart, on the other hand, came out of the old studio system where you kept your cards close to your vest and only rolled out the bigger emotions when you really needed to make a point.

It’s not hard to see how these two styles might have clashed just a bit.

The great news is that it worked wonderfully well. Bogart is supposed to be the cynical, older, weary writer that’s just as close to giving up as he is to trying again. Steiger is the conman wound tight and ready to break, wheeling and dealing at every moment in order to wring every cent that he can out of the world. Bogart comes off as a man unimpressed. Steiger comes off as a frustrated bully who can’t control his affairs or his emotions. It’s exactly what the script calls for.

By far the best film in the box set, this was Bogart’s last time on screen before his death, and it was a really great way for him to end his career. It’s a must see for Classic Film or Bogart fans.

The DVD Extras

*Ben Mankiewicz Intro

*Lobby Card Set Stills

*Scene Stills

*Behind the Scenes Photo Stills

*Publicity Stills

*Movie Poster Stills

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Bottom Line

Yes, get it! If you like Bogart or Classic Films, you won’t regret this set!

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2 thoughts on “TCM Vault: Humphrey Bogart – The Columbia Pictures Collection

  1. Such a fan of THE HARDER THEY FALL. I would buy this set for that film alone.

    I know I’m the exception here, but I’ve never been able to get into KNOCK ON ANY DOOR. The only Bogart film I’ve ever fallen asleep watching…twice.

    And when discussing SIROCCO, let’s not forget the work of Gerald Mohr, giving us two Marlowes for the price of one!

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