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USA 1942
Directed by
Stuart Heisler
85 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Glass Key

A remake of the 1935 film of the same name (which was directed by Frank Tuttle who helmed the Veronica Lake/Alan Ladd noir, This Gun For Hire, which had been released earlier the same year), The Glass Key is a largely unremarkable addition to the political corruption sub-genre of gangster movies, with its typical combination of conniving politicians, crooks and City Hall lackeys.  

Based on a Dashiell Hammett novel, structurally it bears comparison with Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep (1946) whilst Akira Kurosawa credited it as the inspiration for Yojimbo (1961), itself the inspiration for many other films, notably A Fistful Of Dollars, 1964). Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd, were quickly teamed again by Paramount after the success of This Gun For Hire, with Lake once again sizzling and Ladd much more comfortable (although still, in my books too much of a lightweight to be particularly effective, his gleeful departure with Lake at the end of the film seeming much more suited to his un-Hammett-like personality) in his role as Ed Beaumont, the imperturbable right-hand man to his stand-over merchant boss, Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy) who has the hots for Lake's Janet Henry, daughter of an Establishment politician whom Madvig is backing.

Needless to say with such studio product the direction is production-line stuff although Heisler does give an unusually strong presence to the story’s homoerotic potential  in the relationship between Beaumont and Madvig and even more so in the bizarrely sado-masochistic relationship between Beaumont and Jeff (William Bendix in fine form), a gorilla for a small-time hood (Joseph Calleia), an aspect which certainly makes the film of unusual interest.

DVD Extras: Available as part of a 4 disc box set of  contemporary Paramount Veronica Lake/Alan Ladd films that include This Gun For Hire and The Blue Dahlia as well the Charles Laughton classic The Big Clock. The set includes an insert essay by freelance film writer Rose Capp who gives a brief contextualization of the films within the noir style.  

 

 

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