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Bogart shines in new DVDs

John DeFore

Was Humphrey Bogart an unhandsome man? He's been described as ugly enough that it must be true. His eyes are undeniably hangdog, his mouth disfigured (probably an injury from his Navy days, though accounts differ), and his stature modest enough that he sometimes wore platform shoes so co-stars wouldn't tower above him.

But who wouldn't want to be ugly like Humphrey Bogart? Ugly like a man who was the not-unconvincing onscreen love interest for Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn — and Lauren Bacall, who found him so magnetic ("He is the handsomest ugly man I ever saw," she reportedly said) she married him.

It's called charisma, kids.

Film buffs who can't get enough Bogie are in luck this week, as Warner Bros. offers two paths: For the quality-conscious, new Blu-rays present two of his best films in high definition; for the more-more-more crowd, a whopping box set gathers two dozen titles and assorted ephemera for a bargain-basement price.

That set, "Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection," is improperly named: Without titles like "In a Lonely Place" (a Columbia picture), "The African Queen" (owned by Paramount), and "Sabrina" (ditto), the studio really shouldn't promote this as a best-of. Oddly, they don't even include Bogart's co-star gig with James Cagney, "Angels with Dirty Faces," that they not only own but also have released twice before.

But "The Essential Collection" isn't hurting for classics — from the iconic Bogie/Bacall romances like "The Big Sleep" to tough, sweaty crime flicks like "High Sierra" — and unlike some big sets of its sort (Criterion's pricey Kurosawa package comes to mind), it also includes the extravagant bonus features that were included with previous single-movie editions of these films.

The set retails for about $100, which is what you might have paid for just four of these films if you bought them when they were first released.

Of course, any self-respecting fan already owns many of the highlights, and two of the box's best films are rendered instantly obsolete by the week's Blu-rays. "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," both made for director and Bogie buddy John Huston, present the Bogart who embraced his ugliness — a man who might get tangled up with a dame like Mary Astor, but wouldn't be wise to trust her.

Not that he can trust his fellow man, either. In "Sierra Madre," gold-lust pits Bogart against his prospecting partners, upping the ante to Shakespearean heights. Unshaven and covered in dirt, the actor is as far as you can get from the cool, dinner-jacketed Rick Blaine of "Casablanca."

But as desperate as his eyes get, history's greatest movie star is impossible to ignore.