Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
USA, 1942. Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Richard Macaulay, based on the serial by Robert Carson. Cinematography by Arthur Edeson. Produced by Jack Saper, Jerry Wald. Music by Adolph Deutsch. Production Design by Robert M. Haas, Hugh Reticker. Costume Design by Milo Anderson. Film Editing by Frank Magee.
Humphrey Bogart is mixed up in international intrigue in this passably enjoyable spy caper that was released around the same time as Casablanca (and his name is Rick in this one too). He’s an American army officer who is dishonourably discharged for theft, making his way to the Canadian army before they send him packing and he finds himself boarding passage on a steamship bound for Panama. His fellow passengers include Medicine Hat resident Mary Astor on a pleasure cruise and shady Sydney Greenstreet, who resides in the Philippines and has an unusual knack for communicating with all the employees on their Asian-based vessel. The journey progresses and we begin to wonder just how much bad business Greenstreet is up to and, for that matter, just how true Bogart’s story is about being in disgrace.
The original script had Bogart stopping an attack on Pearl Harbour, which, given the historical circumstances that took place during production, then required a full rewrite of the plot (but, hilariously, not the title: the boat goes nowhere near the Pacific let alone across it). John Huston contributes sturdy direction and intelligent writing (the final edit presided over by a replacement after Huston left to go serve overseas) and, while it is atmospheric and fun, it doesn’t quite crackle with the tension you enjoy in the best examples of the genre. Bogart’s zero chemistry with Astor doesn’t help much, but the opportunity to see Asian American actors play something a bit better than doorman stereotypes is enjoyable.