“BLACK ANGEL”— A Film Noir from 1946

“BLACK ANGEL”

A Film Noir from 1946

Amos Lassen

“Black Angel” directed by Hollywood veteran Roy William Neill (is an underappreciated film noir treasure. When the beautiful singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling) is killed in her chic apartment, the men in her life become suspects. Martin Blair (Dan Duryea), her alcoholic musician ex-husband is dealing with a broken heart; shady nightclub owner Marko (Peter Lorre) has been sneaking around her place, and Kirk Bennett (John Phillips) is the adulterer who found Mavis’s dead body and fled the scene. When Bennett is convicted and sentenced to death, his long-suffering wife Catherine (June Vincent) joins the heartbroken pianist Martin Blair to uncover the truth…

The film has a suspenseful narrative, strong performances and wonderful cinematography. The DVD is a wonderful restoration with several new extras.

The film opens with an elaborate tracking shot up the side of a high-rise into Mavis’s apartment. We learn that Mavis has been augmenting her income via blackmail. The police arrest Kirk Bennett one of her blackmail victims who had recently ended an affair with her and despite his pleas of innocence, Kirk is found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to die.

His wife Catherine (June Vincent) stands by Kirk throughout this. She never wavers in her belief that he is innocent. As Kirk awaits his execution, Catherine decides to conduct her own investigation and enlists the help of Mavis’ ex-husband, Martin, who reluctantly agrees to help. Catherine and Martin suspect the involvement of Marko. To collect more information on the mysterious Marko, Catherine and Martin go to work as a singing act at his club Rio’s.

There is a clever twist that may not come as a surprise for discerning viewers. The film provides a pretty good clue right from the outset and the twist negates a large portion of the movie, a tactic that you may find oft-putting.

Duryea is excellent as is Peter Lorre as Marko, who is also involved in the steamy plot as the prime suspect the couple target. The cast, handsome production and the atmospheric, film noir-style direction by Neill come together to give “Black Angel” an attractive urgency.

The brilliant script by Roy Chanslor is taken from a Cornell Woolrich novel, The low-budget film has a stunning simplicity and is an excellent character study .

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  Brand new restoration from original film elements by Arrow Films

  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

  Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  New audio commentary by the writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode

  A Fitting End, a new video appreciation by the film historian Neil Sinyard

  Original trailer

  Gallery of original stills and promotional materials

  Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp