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USA 1946
Directed by
Roy William Neill
80 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Black Angel

Dan Duryea’s first headlining role was a departure from his usual swaggering small-time crook characters. He plays Marty Blair, a piano player not coping well with his broken marriage to nightclub singer and all-round floozie Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling). Mavis, who also has a taste for blackmail, has been fooling around with Kirk Bennett (John Phillips) who, when she is found dead by her maid, is charged with and convicted of her murder. But his devoted wife (June Vincent) believes him innocent and enlists the help of Marty to find the real murderer.

Based on a novel by pulp fiction writer, Cornell Woolrich, the story is essentially a reworking of Phantom Lady which was filmed in 1944 by Robert Siodmak and which, unsurprisingly, was also from a story by Woolrich.  Although Irish-born director Roy William Neill's film lacks the compelling "Expressionist" style and fatalistic mood that is fundamental to the style, Duryea gives an empathetic performance (including simulating playing a piano the keys of which never seem to move), Vincent is effective as the devoted wife and Peter Lorre has an unusually prominent role as a dubious nightclub owner. The professional performances and the tantalizingly way in which the resolution of the story is stretched to the very last minutes of the film make Black Angel a reasonably engaging film.




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