Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Blue Dahlia (1946)

Arrow Academy continues its series of film noir Blu-ray releases with this Alan Ladd / Veronica Lake picture from 1946.
         Navy officer Johnny Morrison (Ladd) returns home from the war to find his house host to a party and his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) host to rather too much booze and what looks like a lover in the form of Eddie Harwood (Howard da Silva), owner of the Blue Dahlia nightclub. The guests clear out and Helen confesses that she lied to Johnny about their young son dying from diphtheria. Instead he was the victim of Helen’s drunken driving.

         Understandably upset by all of this, Johnny leaves home and ends up being given a lift by Harwood’s wife Joyce (Lake) to a hotel where they end up spending the night in a totally above board separate rooms kind of way. Meanwhile, Johnny’s wife is murdered & her body is found the next day by the cleaning lady. The hunt for Johnny is on, despite it being obvious that he’s not the killer.
So who is? Could it be Helen’s lover (and Joyce’s husband)? Could it be Johnny’s chum, the unfortunately named for UK audiences Buzz Wanchek (an excellent William Bendix) who has a metal plate in his head and is driven insane every time he hears jazz? Or is it someone else entirely?

A big success in its day, and following on from THE GLASS KEY as the next Ladd/Lake costarrer, THE BLUE DAHLIA will satisfy fans of old-fashioned mainstream Hollywood detective dramas. George Marshall’s direction is competent without ever being especially creative, and the two leads have an onscreen chemistry that’s actually rather pleasant.
         If you’ve been enjoying some of the other recent noir releases I’ve been writing about (like Robert Siodmak’s CRY OF THE CITY, Byron Haskin’s TOO LATE FOR TEARS or Norman Foster’s WOMAN ON THE RUN) be warned that THE BLUE DAHLIA feels a lot more...ordinary. There’s very little visual flair, quite a few of the dialogue scenes feel a bit flat, and there’s not much music to speak of. While those other movies feel deliciously cynical and subversive, THE BLUE DAHLIA feels like much more mainstream fare. 

You’ll want to switch off your HD settings for Arrow’s Blu-ray as HD is just a bit too much for this print. Extras include a commentary by Frank Krutnik, who also provides an introduction. There’s also a 1949 radio dramatisation featuring the same stars, trailer, promo materials, and if you get the first pressing there’s also a booklet with new writing on the movie by Adrian Wootton. 

THE BLUE DAHLIA is out on Blu-ray from Arrow Academy on Monday 19th September 2016

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