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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

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High Sierra (1941) on IMDb

Plot Overview

The New York governor pardons gangster Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart) after he's served eight years in the pen. Ex-copper Jake Kranmer (Barton MacLane) relays a message from head man Big Mac (Daniel MacBride) to come see him in California about a job in the works. Roy drives his coupe through Tropical Springs, Indiana to reacquaint him­self with his child­hood roots. His record makes him unwelcome by the locals.

Near the California/Nevada border he meets a poor farm family traveling from Ohio with a pretty young grand­daughter twenty-year-old Velma Baughmam (Joan Leslie.) They don't know him, and he ingratiates himself with them by helping them financially, under the assumed name Collins. At his way station the Shaws Camp, he meets his (inexperienced) crew: ‘Babe’ (Alan Curtis), ‘Red’ (Arthur Kennedy), and inside-man Louis Mendoza (Cornel Wilde)—who works the desk at the Tropico Resort where guests will stash their dough and valuables. They have added pretty “dime-a-dance” girl Marie Garson (Ida Lupino) to their troupe and have adopted a cute mutt “Pard” (Zero) whose former owners all suffered untimely demise. These last two are wild cards playing havoc with Roy's luck.


Which translation is God's word?

There is a striking contrast in this movie where head man Big Mac foolishly ignores all his ‘Doc’ Banton (Henry Hull)'s advice with impunity while the poor crippled girl (played by a 15-yr-old) with diminishingly small prospects care­fully guides her steps. Who do you think does better? If we're matching plot points with biblical themes, we'll have to go with, (Eccl. 4:13-14) “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.” But what in the world does that all mean? Sounds like the proverbial words of the wise and their dark sayings.

The English language in its early vitality gave rise to the King James Version (KJV) whose wise words have since become poor in currency following the natural course of diminishing usage, while the dominating modern versions of an aged English retain lots of baggage, as does a king who came out of prison to reign. In “High Sierra” Earle physically cows his two under­lings and shouts down a competitive suitor, displaying the same prison mores the chief man would have learned from his prison stints. And Earle is murderous in his stickup.

We want to look at, (Matt. 5:21-22) “Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and who­soever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That who­soever is angry with his brother with­out a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and who­soever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but who­soever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” Earle had no cause to be angry with the suitor Velma picked instead of him. Raca is an especially blistering insult in Hebrew, but “Thou fool” might be almost as bad. Earle's parting shot of, “And I don't like you!” had Bogart putting a lot of prison venom in the word you whom he didn't like. That can be contrasted in this movie with the similar-meaning ya that had an almost ‘aw, shucks’ quality to it when Marie said regarding imprison­ment, “Yeah, I get it; ya always sorta hope ya can get out, it keeps ya going.”

Let's take, (Job 2:9-10) “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Job finessed his answer to not come across as unduly angry, thus he “did not Job sin with his lips.” As the script­writer chose the pronoun ya instead of you for a calmer expression, so the 1611 Bible translators used thee & thou as more genteel speech than you for a second person (singular) pronoun.

God seems to want contrition in his word that we preach to people. Let's take (Micah 6:8) “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” To apply it to God's word, i.e. Bible translation, let's connect it with, (Isaiah 66:2) “For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” God who made every­thing was certainly competent enough to make an English Bible trans­lation with­out needing man to come back and correct him later, time and again. Man is supposed to “do justly.” Even though it costs him money, he'll still find a reliable KJV affordable though he be poor in his just life. Walking humbly with his God he will obey his word tremblingly. And, of course, he will be contrite, even as David says, (Psalm 51:15-17) “O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” God seems to want our contrition in conveying his word, more than he desires this or that. In this movie it's represented by the second person pronoun. As George P. Marsh put it in an 1859 graduate lecture on the English Bible, (448–9):

the English Bible sustains, and always has sustained to the general English tongue, the position of a treatise upon a special know­ledge requiring, like any branch of science, a special nomen­clature and phrase­ology. The language of the law, for example, in both vocabu­lary and structure, differs widely from that of unpro­fes­sional life; the language of medicine, of meta­physics, of astronomy, of chemistry, of mechanical art, all these have their approp­riate idioms, very diverse from the speech which is the common heri­tage of all. Why, then, should theology, the highest of know­ledges, alone be required to file her tongue to the vulgar utterance, when every other human interest has its own approp­riate expression, which no man thinks of conforming to a standard that, because it is too common, can hardly be other than unclean?

As for “he that is born in his kingdom becoming poor,” words that were useful in 1611 have become poor in usage as they go out of style, but this is business as usual, nothing to make a big deal about. Scholar Joshua Whatmough writes that, “Within the territory of a language, wide deviations of dialect may be found … Such deviations disturb communications, they do not completely disrupt it. And they are, in all known languages, past and present, a constant feature, like archaisms (e.g. in religious or legal terminology) …” (51, 28).

In “High Sierra” Earle uses the expression “crash out” to mean what today we'd say in the vernacular, to “bust out” or “break out” of prison. In the war following this 1941 movie, the military—probably the pilots—adopted the term “crash” to mean to sleep some­where convenient and it has stuck. We also use “bail out.” Never­the­less, “crash out” works well in this 1941 movie, and we under­stand its meaning. Marie even gets some­one to explain it to her, and that works, too.

Production Values

” (1941) was directed by Raoul Walsh. The story is written by John Huston. John Huston co-wrote the screen­play based on a W.R. Burnett novel. It stars Ida Lupino, Humphrey Bogart, and Alan Curtis. It features a fine cast of supporting actors. Ida Lupino appeared in one of her better roles. She later went on to direct a number of other movies. Donald MacBride's Big Mac outdid the other actors in the film even though he only appeared in one scene.

Ratings are: Australia: G (TV rating); Canada: PG; United Kingdom: PG; United States: Passed (National Board of Review); United States: Approved. This film is a classic serving up noir elements of a doomed criminal whose druthers are to be a farmer, but he must pull one last heist. It had a lack­luster score but good photog­raphy. Hold on tight to your seats for the final car chase. Excellent location sets. The film is about personalties. It moves quickly.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This movie is predictable and sad, but it had a cute dog (that didn't help the crooks.) There was a curious juxtaposition of life­styles, which didn't profit the criminals much either. Makes one want to go straight if he gets the chance. Keeps one on his toes.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Predictable. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Marsh, George P. “Formation of our English sacred dialect.”
       Lectures on the English Language. London: John Murray, 1863. Print.
       ——available to read or download at www.bibles.n7nz.org.

Whatmough, Joshua. Language A Modern Synthesis. New York: Mentor Books, 1957. Print.