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Roy William Neill
Dan Duryea, June Vincent, Peter Lorre
Writing Credits:
Roy Chanslor

When Kirk Bennett is convicted of a singer's murder, his wife tries to prove him innocent - aided by the victim's ex-husband.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English LPCM 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 81 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 1/28/2020

• Audio Commentary with Film Scholar Alan K. Rode
• “A Fitting End” Featurette
• Image Gallery
• Trailer


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Black Angel [Blu-Ray] (1946)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 22, 2020)

A thriller from the golden age of film noir, we head to 1946’s Black Angel. Taken from a novel by Cornell Woolrich, the movie introduces us to Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling), a beautiful vocalist.

Alas, the film spends little time with Mavis, as she soon ends up murdered in her elegant apartment. Obviously, this leads to an investigation, and the prime suspect becomes Kirk Bennett (John Phillips), a married man who conducted an affair with Mavis.

Kirk winds up convicted for the crime. However, his wife Catherine (June Vincent) believes he didn’t kill Mavis.

Despite the disgraceful way Kirk treated her, Catherine attempts to prove her husband’s innocence. This leads her to an improbable ally: Martin Blair (Dan Duryea), an alcoholic musician who also happens to be the husband Mavis dumped.

That kind of tale related to the unjustly-accused pervades many film noir efforts, but I don’t view that as a negative. Plenty of movies work wonders with seemingly trite themes, so I figured Angel came with ample room to entertain.

Alas, the movie doesn’t work as well as I’d hoped. More of a mopey melodrama than a taut thriller, Angel lacks much excitement.

When I went into Angel, I thought the plot offered more than minor reminders of 1944’s Phantom Lady. This seems less coincidental when one considers that Woolrich wrote the source novel for both.

Like Angel, Lady focused on a female who pioneered a crusade to clear an innocent man. Some differences occur, of course, but the similarities seem undeniable.

I really liked Lady, and that positive experience likely took me into Angel with raised expectations. The presence of solid veterans like Peter Lorre and Broderick Crawford in the cast added to these hopes.

At no point does Angel become a bad movie, as the investigation brings just enough intrigue to keep us with it. However, the film seems more concerned with potential romance between Catherine and Martin than it does the main plot.

This leads us down semi-useless tangents too much of the time. On occasion, the attempts to rescue Kirk from death row seem forgotten, and that makes Angel less tight and provocative than I’d like.

Of course, as the third act cranks along, Angel comes up with some intriguing twists, but these fall into the “too little, too late” category. The movie’s general lack of focus means that it never becomes the effective thriller fans want.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Black Angel appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer held up well over the years.

Sharpness mainly came across well, with images that largely appeared accurate and well-defined. A few slightly ill-defined elements materialized, but most of the movie showed nice accuracy.

Angel lacked moiré effects or jagged edges, and edge haloes also remained absent. The presence of grain implied that the image didn’t suffer from notable digital noise reduction.

Blacks looked taut and dense, while low-light shots demonstrated appropriate smoothness and clarity. Contrast also appeared well-developed, as the black and white photography showed the expected silvery sheen.

Print flaws failed to become a factor, so we got an image without specks or marks. This turned into a pleasing presentation.

I thought the movie’s PCM monaural soundtrack seemed dated but adequate. In terms of dialogue, the lines remained intelligible and offered reasonable clarity.

Neither music nor effects boasted much range or dimensionality, but both appeared clean and accurate enough, without distortion or problems. The track came with some light background noise. This mix felt acceptable for its vintage.

When we move to extras, we open with an audio commentary from film historian Alan K. Rode. He brings a running, screen-specific look at cast and crew as well as a mix of production topics.

Overall, Rode brings a pretty strong commentary. He gets into the appropriate subjects and does so in an enthusiastic manner that makes this an engaging chat – though someone needs to tell Rode that an interesting story isn’t called an “antidote”.

Via A Fitting End, we get a 20-minute, 53-second “video appreciation” from film scholar Neil Sinyard. He discusses author Cornell Woolrich as well as cast and crew. Some of this repeats from the commentary, but Sinyard brings us a good array of fresh notes.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we end with an Image Gallery. This splits into “Production Stills” (99 frames) and “Posters and Lobby Cards” (16). Both offer good material, though I especially like the vivid publicity shots, as they’re surprisingly artistic.

As a thriller, Black Angel doesn’t quite connect. Too much of the film wanders astray and fails to turn into a lively mystery. The Blu-ray brings solid picture as well as appropriate audio and a few supplements. Though not a bad movie, Angel doesn’t engage as well as it should.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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