High Sierra (1941)

Source: Warner Bros.: DVD, 2003.

Year: 1941

Director: Raoul Walsh

Action Stars

Humphrey Bogart

Arthur Kennedy

Ida Lupino

Cornel Wilde

Genre: Crime Film

Country: United States

Story Duration: 01:37:53

Act Duration:

1st Act: 00:21:48

2nd Act: 00:31:34

3rd Act: 00:19:58

4th Act: 00:24:31

Plot Turns:

1st: Hotel robbery planning

2nd: Message from Mendoza

3rd: Roy’s engagement gift to Marie

ASD Ratio: 38%

AAD Ratios:

1st Act: 24%

2nd Act: 20%

3rd Act: 41%

4th Act: 69%

Action Structure: 1234

Action Scenarios








Total Action Moments: 27

1. Parallel editing depicting the pursued.
2. Parallel editing depicting the pursuers.
3. Start of 360°pan presenting the pursued.
4. Continuation of 360°pan to present the pursuers.
Action Structure

Notable Action Sequence: Mountain Chase

Duration: 00:08:02

Act: 4th

Action Scenarios:








It is not unusual for crime films to exhibit a fatalistic dimension but High Sierra (1941) exhibits this film noir trait in a unique way. This fatalism is expressed by Pard, a dog who has a history of bringing bad luck to his previous owners. Pard is eventually adopted by Roy Earle, a criminal recently released from prison, who is commissioned to organize a robbery at a hotel resort. In addition to serving this thematic function, Pard assumes the role of a character by featuring in their own escape and pursuit scenarios.

This fatalism is also reinforced by the strictures of the Production Code that mandated the criminal behavior should not go unpunished. Earle is a wanted man after shooting a guard during the hotel robbery so it is not unexpected that in the 4th act the police have tracked him down. Earle stops in a town to commit a quick robbery of a pharmacy but a plainclothes police officer enters the store resulting in an altercation in which Earle clubs him with his gun before the officer is able to pull out his firearm.

Earle rushes to his car and speeds away from the crime scene, initiating the escape scenario. Soon roadblocks are set up around the town in an effort to capture Earle. While speeding along a road, Earle brakes when he spots a roadblock and swiftly turns his car around, but he is nonetheless spotted by the police who jump into their vehicle in pursuit, and alert other police officers to also give chase. As Earle heads out of town along a road leading up into the High Sierra mountains the action sequence assumes the classic form of the pursuit scenario with shots of the pursued [Figure 1] alternating with shots of the pursuers [Figure 2]. Normally this alternation between the pursued and the pursuer is affected by parallel editing but the sequence later on provides a variation of this technique through a single take shot consisting of a 360° pan that commences with a view of Earle escaping from the police while negotiating a hairpin turn [Figure 3] and ends with the police convoy pursuing him along the same turn [Figure 4]. Earle’s path is eventually blocked as a result of a felled tree. He exists the car and rushes up a mountain slope with his weapons with the sequence transforming into a foot pursuit as the police do the same. Earle attempts to halt their progress by firing at them with a machine gun causing the police to take cover. The sequence ends as the police assume formations to entrap Roy, ensuring his inevitable doomed fate.

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