Continuing the Arrow Academy line of film noirs being released to Blu-ray is Paramount Pictures’ THE GLASS KEY - an attempt to cash in on the success of Warner Bros.’ THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) by bringing to the screen another novel by Dashiell Hammett.
Crooked politician Paul Madvig (a lightweight, almost skipping Brian Donlevy, way before his QUATERMASS and CURSE OF THE FLY days) is supporting the campaign of a prospective Baltimore governor because Madvig fancies his daughter Janet (haughty Veronica Lake). Madvig is aided immensely by his right hand man Ed Beaumont (Alan Ladd, frequently made to look taller in this with the aid of a hat).
When Janet’s alcoholic gambling-obsessed brother Taylor (Richard Denning from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) is found murdered, all the evidence / motives point to Madvig. But this being noir-land, nothing is quite what it seems.
While not as good as THE MALTESE FALCON, THE GLASS KEY boasts some interesting sets (why are they all having dinner right up the far end of that immense room?), convoluted plotting that all works out if you concentrate, some decent performances all round, and a fair old bit of violence. Oh yes indeed, if you want to see Alan Ladd get beaten to within an inch of his life, it’s not SHANE you want, it’s this.
The mix of political corruption, seedy bars, ultra-rich gangsters and femme fatales works well too - the lady who keeps getting it on with Ladd on a fireside sofa while her husband shoots himself upstairs is an almost perfect encapsulation of an entire genre - and aficionados will find much here to enjoy, even if the (probably imposed Hollywood) ending feels a bit trite as a way of rounding off this sort of material.
Arrow’s Blu-ray also has an audio commentary by Adrian Wootton, a new visual essay on the film by Alastair Phillips, and a 30 minute radio dramatisation of the story (with Ladd again). There’s also a trailer, a still gallery, and a reversible sleeve, and if you get the first pressing of this you’ll also get a booklet with new writing on the film by Kat Ellinger.
Arrow Academy are releasing THE GLASS KEY on Region B Blu-ray on Monday 19th September 2016