Sunday, November 14, 2004

DVD: Black Angel (1946)

Following the Hollywood dictum “Anything you can do, I can do ... also,” Universal released a film noir collection at the same time that Warner Brothers did. The titles aren’t as well known, but that may work to the films’ advantage. They’re ripe for rediscovery.

BLACK ANGEL, the genuine sleeper of the four, has such a great premise that I’m shocked it’s the only one that hasn’t been remade. June Vincent’s husband is on death row for killing his mistress. She sets out to clear him with an unlikely ally: the mistress’ husband (Dan Duryea).

Other than some questionable police work by Broderick Crawford, what’s not to love? You’ve got Duryea playing a lout, Peter Lorre simpering gloriously, and a lulu of an ending courtesy of Cornell Woolrich. This was the last film by Roy William Neill, who directed many of the Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes series. It’s a fitting tribute.

DVD: This Gun For Hire (1942)

Does every film noir have to feature what Variety would call a chantoosie? June Vincent becomes one in BLACK ANGEL, and Veronica Lake plays one here.

This adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel proved something of a disappointment, with a plot stitched together by coincidence. But Alan Ladd is fierce as Raven, the hired killer on the run. And I relish any chance to watch Laird Cregar work his peculiar dark magic. He should be mentioned in the same breath as other character actors from the period, like Lorre and Greenstreet. But he acted for only five years before dying at age 28. I watched I WAKE UP SCREAMING a few months ago because I loved the title, but I’ll never forget Cregar’s performance as an implacable detective.

Lake wears a fishing outfit for one of her musical numbers. Black vinyl hip waders with a matching hat. I demand to know why Kim Basinger doesn’t wear one in L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.

Miscellaneous: Links

It’s the annual movie issue of the New York Times magazine. So naturally all of the interesting articles are in other sections of the paper. Here’s a glimpse at some of the academic papers presented at a recent symposium on Godzilla. A.O. Scott offers an appreciation of Sam Fuller and THE BIG RED ONE. And a sitcom set in the world of Halo and Halo 2.