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KEY LARGO

Director: JOHN HUSTON

U.S.A.| 1948. BLACK AND WHITE. 100 MIN


‘I wanted a glimpse of the animal with its shell off,’ said Huston about his memorable first shot of gangster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) as he soaks himself in the bathtub. Holed up with his gang in a hotel in Key Largo and holding the guests as hostage, Rocco is planning a return to an America that has previously deported him. When the wheelchair-bound hotel owner (Lionel Barrymore) says he hasn’t a chance, Rocco snarls back: ‘Who’s gonna stop me, old man?’ In thriller terms, the answer seems to be Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart), a war veteran searching for lost ideals. In allegorical terms, however, the question resonates more unsettlingly. If Barrymore is the spirit of Roosevelt idealism (but now old and impotent), Robinson’s Rocco foreshadows the thuggery of McCarthy, and Bogart’s passive post-war disillusionment symbolises a late ’40s American mood where political gangsterism might thrive. The acting duel between Bogart and Robinson is something to savour, and there is also a superb Oscar-winning turn from Claire Trevor as the gangster’s drunken moll.—Neil Sinyard.

A 7-minute on-screen introduction to this film with Anjelica Huston will precede the screening.

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