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Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Boston Blackie Booked on Suspicion (1945)

Wilfred Kittridge, New and Used Books, are hosting their annual auction of rare books, but Mr Kittridge is being urged by his doctor to take a complete rest and miss the thing. Arthur Manleder has just bought the store outright and needs him to host the auction, so Boston Blackie takes the opportunity to impersonate him for the occasion. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the prize exhibit, an inscribed first edition of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, turns out to be counterfeit.

With Inspector Farraday completely unaware of Blackie's false identity and in the firm belief that he's the crook, Blackie has to double as the bookseller while investigating the real crook. He also has to battle the twin misfortunes of having a beautiful fifth column inside his own circle of confidantes and being a little clumsy, given that this is film number eight in the series and the directorial helm has passed on to Arthur Dreifuss, who would make the (previous) worst of the bunch in number nine, Boston Blackie's Rendezvous.

It gets a little tiring and repetitive to point out that Chester Morris, George E Stone and Lloyd Corrigan are as great fun as always as Blackie, the Runt and Arthur, though the latter pair have very little screen time.. Richard Lane flusters around as well as always as Farraday and the headlines in the paper advertising police incompetence never cease to tire. What's new here is Lynn Merrick, playing the cool as ice femme fatale Gloria Mannard. She looks good in the role and she carries it well, though she has unfortunately little to do. Just as unfortunately she's all that's new.

The story though is pretty poor, after a promising start, and I honestly lost track of what the middle third of the movie was about. I've also seen enough Boston Blackie movies to recognise not just scenes and escape routines but even fire escapes. This one is an early example of just how much Hollywood recycled material. You could almost call it a mashup of other Boston Blackie movies. This is the new low of the series, in my opinion, and I've now seen eleven out of fourteen of them. I'll also keep well away from director Arthur Dreifuss, who made over fifty movies, at least until I start deliberately looking at the worst films rather than the best.

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