Sunday 28 January 2007

Confessions of Boston Blackie (1941) Edward Dmytryk

Edward Dmytryk is an important name to attach to a pulp detective series like this, but then he was still reasonably new to the industry. This is his thirteenth film and the only one I recognise is the previous one. He came to this Boston Blackie movie from a Lone Wolf movie and four forward he'd be behind a Falcon movie. He certainly cut his teeth on these, because it was 1944 when he really arrived, helming the Philip Marlowe film, Murder, My Sweet.

We're in the Allison Galleries where Blackie is bidding on a statue. However there's a scam going on and the owner, a beautiful young lady called Diane Parrish, realises that the statue being auctioned isn't hers, prompting gunshots and Blackie's arrest for murder. As the formula seems to run, Inspector Farraday arrests Blackie for the crime, only for him to escape using both guts and brains and investigate the murder on his own.

Dmytryk and scriptwriters Jay Dratler and Paul Yawitz keep it buzzing along: even though it's nearly ten minutes longer than the first, it still feels way too short. Chester Morris is excellent and proves once more how much he excels in situations where he's in a tight spot with the law right there in the room and he has to bluff his way out of things. This sort of thing leads to a lot of the humour here, but there's also the dialogue which is great, and the digs at the cops by everyone in the film, including the headline writers and radio newscasters.

The addition here to make the regular cast complete is George E Stone, who I saw earlier today playing a stereotypical Japanese wartime leader in The Devil With Hitler. He takes over as Blackie's sidekick, the Runt, and stays for the rest of the series. He's certainly much better than the previous actor in the role, and I wonder if he took a lot of his ideas from Peter Lorre, with whom he worked in a Mr Moto movie a few years earlier. He has something of Lorre's looks and motions, enough to keep bringing the connection to mind, and while he has far less talent he still looks like an interesting actor to watch. I've seen him in a lot of movies without his really registering but I don't think that state of affairs will carry on for too much longer.

As for the film itself, I really enjoyed it. The Runt is better than in the first film and Matthews isn't as stereotypically dumb, the rest of the regulars are at least as good, the leading lady is fine, the mystery is a good one, the scrapes memorable, the setup solid and the comedy sparkling. It's definitely pulp entertainment but it's good pulp entertainment.

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