AKA MURDER BY PROXY
AVAILABLE ON R1 DVD
RUNNING TIME: 87 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Down and out American Casey Morrow is drunk in a bar when he’s approached by a pretty blonde with an offer he can’t refuse: can he marry her if she gives him a large sum of money. However, he awakes in another woman’s apartment with blood on his coat and then sees from a newspaper that his new wife’s father has been murdered. Casey can’t remember everything he did the previous night, but it seems he was in her father’s house for a while. Has Phyllis set him up?….
This one’s pretty good, especially concerning its labyrinthine plot which I’ve read is incomprehensible, but which I was able to follow reasonably well, and in any case nobody seems to mind that you never find out who committed one of the murders in The Big Sleep. Twists and turns come out you from all directions, people’s roles constantly change, and even at the end most of the characters are grey rather than black or white. There’s murder, blackmail, a sham marriage, embezzlement, and much else, not to mention a femme fatale whom you’re not sure about throughout. In fact, even at the end, I wasn’t sure about whose side she is really on, which was probably intended by script writer Richard H. Landau, working from a novel by Helen Nielsen. Belinda Lee was another blonde bombshell who died early [from a car crash] and was a better actress than some. Her chemistry with Dane Clark [The Gambler And The Lady], who really does look and act like Humphrey Bogart here despite being usually called the poor man’s John Garfield, is quite strong and their scenes together work well, their their first stumble into a clinch being very cute. A good example of how the film surprises is that Eleanor Butterfield’s character, the actress playing the ‘good’ girl for the third time in these films, doesn’t end up with our hero.
Dane has some fun scenes to play when he’s posing badly as a reporter and an insurance investigator, and the fast pace is only really slowed down by a pointless but quite touching section where Casey goes to see his estranged mother and there’s a wedding ceremony in the pub which she runs, a pub which seems to be a Polish pub by the looks [and sounds] of it, but then there are quite a few eccentricities in this film, like a funny bit when a bad guy tries to shoot Casey, his gun jams, and Casey responds by hurling his gun at him, killing him instantly. The build-up to the final showdown is nice and tense though and cinematographer Walter J. Harvey does his usual thing with blacks and shadows, though overall Blackout [this had already been the title for two films, both of them British, and would be the title of loads more] isn’t as visually strong as some of these films are. It does, though, have more location shooting than normal. It’s generally absorbing, never dull and sometimes quite surprising, at least in terms of its storyline.