'Black Angel: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Dan Duryea, June Vincent, Peter Lorre, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1946) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: When the beautiful singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling) is slain in her chic apartment, the men in her life become suspects.
There is Martin Blair (Dan Duryea, Scarlet Street), her alcoholic musician ex-husband, nursing a broken heart; there is the shady nightclub owner Marko (Peter Lorre, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon) who has been sneaking around her place, and there is Kirk Bennett (John Phillips), the adulterer who found his mistress's dead body and fled the scene.
When Bennett is convicted and sentenced to death, his long-suffering wife Catherine (June Vincent) joins forces with the heartbroken pianist Martin Blair to uncover the truth.
Blu-ray Verdict: Elegantly directed by Hollywood veteran Roy William Neill (best known for his 11 Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone), 'Black Angel' is an underappreciated film noir treasure, adapted from a novel by the acclaimed crime writer Cornell Woolrich (Phantom Lady).
Kirk Bennett (Phillips) is convicted of a singer's murder, but his wife Catherine (Vincent) tries to prove him innocent with the help of the victim's estranged husband, Martin Blair (Duryea).
However, we first meet him at his worst, drunk and disorderly, a man drowning his sorrows after being dumped by his gorgeous, nasty wife, who has since been murdered.
But when Duryea meets June Vincent, he shapes up and love blooms. We root for Vincent and Duryea to find the murderer so Vincent can divorce her cheating husband, marry Duryea, and live happily ever after in her cozy home in the suburbs of L.A.
How very likable and nice are Vincent and Duryea. And how nice it is that neither of these likable people, mutually attracted as they are, acted on their feelings which, kept in check by the demands of sleuthing, are simmering just beneath the surface.
For a mid 1940s film noir entry 'Black Angel' is modest in terms of visuals and a general noir vibe, but with strong casting, intelligent scripting and a genuinely interesting mystery driving the story forward, it proves to be an enjoyable who done it?
Director Neill, in spite of some gaping plot questions that surface, does a fine job of dangling carrots to keep us guessing on how this will eventually pan out.
He also ensures that the principal players are given room to breath, with Duryea repaying the director's approach with a great, and rare, sympathetic performance.
A couple of technical flourishes hint at what a better film it could have been in terms of atmosphere and darkening of the mood, such as the re-creation of the murder in a swirling expressionistic haze.
Broderick Crawford plays Captain Flood, who is really not totally concerned either way in innocence or guilt, because his squad is three months behind solving cases.
Former Goldwyn girl Dowling is a knockout and looks like someone would want to kill her throughout! It's all held together nicely by the likes of Peter Lorre, who plays a somewhat-decent club owner instead of the usual bad guy; and other somewhat-less-known character actors of the 1940's.
That all said, 'Black Angel' - complete with some deft observations on emotionally charged characters shaded in grey - still holds enough interest to entice the film noir fan, that's for sure. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:
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
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
'Black Angel' Original Movie Trailer