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79 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2000
This 1946 memorable noir boasts a fine cast that includes: Peter Lorre, Dan Duryea, June Vincent, and the stunningly beautiful Constance Dowling. Based on the novel by Cornell Woolrich and directed by Roy William Neill, Black Angel's storyline hinges on the elements that comprise many noir classics. Murder, blackmail, deceit, and a race against time to prove a desperate man's innocence are the essential plot elements that propell Neill's film through the uncertainties of urban darkness. Cheating husband Kirk Bennett (John Phillips) is wrongfully convicted of murder and is sentenced to die in the electric chair. This time it is a woman, Kirk's wife Cahterine ( June Vincent) who intensifies the murder investigation. As Kirk's execution date draws near, Catherine instills the help of an alcoholic songwriter, Marty Blair (Dan Duryea). Blair is the ex-husband of the murdered woman ( Constance Dowling). The unlikely pairing uncover a trail of clues that lead them to a swarthy night club owner named Marko ( Peter Lorre). Great performances by all actors highlight the picture. Lorre is excellent as the shaddy club owner who is being blackmailed. June Vincent as Catherine gives an admirable performance as she attempts to balance emotional distance and closeness with the rejuvenated Marty. But it is Constance Dowling as Mavis Marlowe who devours her screen time with vampish presence. Mavis exudes sexual danger as a pretensiously concieted singer who lives in a posh high-rise apartment surrounded by trinkets that reaffirm her beauty and status. Why Dowling never achieved the same screen stardom as actresses such as: Lauren Bacall, Barbara Stanwyck, or Rita Hayworth is mystifying. Maybe that is why films such as Black Angel are worth viewing over and over again.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
The housewife with no police experience conducts an amazingly more thorough investigation into her husband's guilt or innocence than the cops do, but aside from that hard-to-swallow fact, this is a pretty good film noir that delivers solid performances, a well-developed but still easy to follow story (unlike a lot of noirs that seem to make it a point of honor to confuse viewers at least a little), and a satisfyingly twisty close. The DVD features a nice print of the film and a trailer in much better shape than most of the trailers included on DVDs of 1940s movies.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2004
While this isn't in the same league as "Double Indemnity" or "The Postman Always Rings Twice" it's still a great way to spend a rainy night! Dan Duryea, who usually had a supporting role as a sinister villian, gets top billing this time & really plays a sympathetic character who just wants to know who killed his wife. Add great support from Peter Lorre & June Vincent & you've got a very entertaining murder mystery. The plot is never terribly exciting but there's a great twist at the end that makes it well worth watching. For film noir buffs I recommend adding this gem to your collection.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2004
Within the last ten years or so, I've really come to appreciate films of the `noir' period, so I was pleased to see a couple of the major studios cracking their vaults and releasing some to DVD. The snappy dialogue (including all those wonderful euphemisms), the immaculately dressed characters (who do you know who dresses `to the nines' to go out and buy a newspaper or pack of cigarettes? Unfiltered, of course...), the bleak atmosphere, scheming mugs, cynical tough guys, and beautiful, yet dangerous,'s a world rarely defined in terms of black or white, but various shades of gray, where very little is as it seems...

Black Angel (1946), directed by Roy William Neill (his last film before his death), who did a handful of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes throughout the 40's, stars Dan Duryea (Scarlet Street, The Flight of the Phoenix) and June Vincent (Trapped by Boston Blackie). Also appearing is the ever lovable, bugged eyed Peter Lorre (Casablanca) and J. Edgar Hoover look-a-like Broderick Crawford (New York Confidential).

After the murder of a particularly nasty woman with a penchant for extortion (as we find out later), Catherine Bennett's (June Vincent) husband Kirk is fingered for the crime, since he was the last person witnessed going to the woman's apartment (woo woo), but, as we saw, she was already dead when he got there (hey Kirk, nice job of getting your grimy fingerprints all over everything in her posh apartment...did you really have to pick everything up, including the gun? Knucklehead...) Catherine knows he's innocent, of the murder at least, and feels she must learn the truth, as the great, whopping pile of evidence pointing towards Kirk, aka Mr. Touchy, has scheduled an appointment for him in the gas chamber for a crime he didn't commit. She seeks the aid of the murdered woman's estranged husband, Martin Blair (Duryea), who's been on one heck of a bender since getting the old heave ho by his wife, especially now that she's dead, and isn't inclined at first to help, but soon has a change of heart as Catherine's a heck of a looker and certain possibilities begin to cross his mind. The trail leads our two junior detectives to Mr. Marko (Lorre), a nightclub owner and generally shady character (I did think it was really cool him having a barber chair and set up right in his office...imagine a haircut and shave whenever you wanted). Time is against the plucky pair (well, June is kinda plucky, but not so much Martin...I would call him optimistically opportunistic), as Kirk's day of reckoning is quickly approaching (movie justice sure is swift).

All in all, I thought this was a pretty good film, with a few problems, mainly in the plot. I thought June Vincent (she's a real knockout and sings well, too) and Dan Duryea did well (nice coif Duryea...looks like a can of pomade a day man) but the enjoyment came from Peter Lorre's semi-sinister character of Marko. Sadly, his role was relegated to that of a supporting player, so he didn't appear as much as I would have liked. Even when he plays the most despicable of characters, he's just so damn adorable, you can't help but love him...and that distinctive voice. As an actor, he just seemed to fit so well in the time when he was most popular, playing the characters he did. I thought the direction was highly professional (a perfect example is at the beginning, as we're outside and we see a shot of a cab pulling up to a the cab stops, we see from the sign on the cab door that informs us the film takes place in some city in may not seem like much, but the beauty is in the subtlety. A less capable director would have found a way to beat us over the head with this minor fact. I thought the dialog pretty good, but not as snappy as I would have liked...I suppose it's probably because I use The Maltese Falcon as a frame of reference for `gangster speak' (unfairly, I admit) when it comes films within the genre. The problems, for me, lie in the plot. Initially, it seemed like there were some gaping holes, but those were cleared up later on...leaving some minor pot holes causing a niggling sense of the parts not all fitting together quite right. Kirk being such a gullible chump, the convoluted part about Catherine and Martin forming an act as to allow them to infiltrate Marko's club (I had a good laugh when a certain revelation was made that torpedoed their well laid plans and essentially sunk their efforts). After awhile, and well before the identity of the killer is revealed, I guessed whodunit, although I was a bit fuzzy on one particular detail, which was haphazardly explained away (in my opinion). Also, given the who the killer was, I was a bit surprised at the ease of which the killer managed to slip by Kirk when they were both in the murdered woman's apartment, at the beginning of the film, but given what a bonehead Kirk was, I guess I can't pick at that point too much. Also, did it seem to anyone else like the only reason to have June Vincent's character sing a couple of numbers was to capitalize on her singing ability, rather than forward the storyline along? She was a very good singer, but that whole plot element seemed awkward and jammed into the story, interrupting the general flow. I suppose I'm probably making too much of these essentially minor elements, as the film is really pretty entertaining, and deeply steeped with the `noir' qualities I was looking for when I bought it.

The print Universal used on this DVD looks pretty good, with a few, very minor aging elements apparent. The picture is full screen (original aspect ratio), and the audio is excellent. Included is an original theatrical trailer.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2004
A sexy singer, an ex lover and a dutiful wife: classic film noir lover's triangle tinged with a race against time and singed in sparkling performances from a stellar cast. In "Black Angel" femme fatale chanteuse Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling) turns up dead. Kirk Bennett (John Phillips) who used to be her lover seems the natural choice for the police's prime suspect and their latest blackmail victim. No one believes Kirk's story - it is a little hard to swallow - that he found Mavis already a goner on the floor of her apartment. However, when Kirk is sentenced to death, his long-suffering, too-good-to-be-true wife, Catherine (June Vincent) begins to investigate the crime for answers of her own. She's aided by Martin Blair (Dan Duryea) Mavis' husband. The film is riddled with rich curiosities of character; Kirk's philandering innocence, Mavis' evil vixen turned victim, Catherine's never wavering devotion to her wayward hubby and Blair's nonchalant, noncommittal dedication to discovering who really killed his wife. At one point Blair even goes so far as to offer himself as Kirk's replacement, should salvation not come in time to spare him from the electric chair. It must be love! An outstanding cameo comes by way of Peter Lorre as Marco, the always spurious, never to be trusted seedy nightclub owner who happened to visit Mavis Marlowe on the night she bought the farm. It should be pointed out however, that the suspense of finding the killer gets somewhat diffused in the process and never quite reaches the par excellence caliber of say, "The Asphalt Jungle" or "Laura."
Another solid effort from Universal.The gray scale is very well balanced with deep solid blacks and whites that are almost pristine. There's a hint film grain and some age related artifacts. Also, some edge enhancement and pixelization occur as well but nothing that will distract. The audio is mono and very well represented. There are no extras on this disc. Nevertheless, it is a good disc to add to your library of classic cinema.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 1999
Finally available is a not too often discussed, but superbly filmed drama about a person, whose guiltiness becomes clear only late in the movie. Dan Duryea, often framed by dull stories, acts without his usual (wanted) sliminess and is the tragic hero of a dark drama. A fine score as well as good costumes and a false fire performance by Peter Lorre complete this beautifully restored edition. Every noir fan has to get it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2004
When blackmailing night club singer Mavis Marlowe is strangled with her own silk scarf, a man she was blackmailing and involved with is arrested. He says he's innocent, his loyal wife says he's innocent---but all evidence points to his guilt. The wife (June Vincent) sets out to prove his innocence even though the cop on the case (Broderick Crawford) is doubtful. She finds an unlikely ally in Marlowe's alcoholic piano player husband Dan Duryea. The clue to the murder is a missing ruby brooch. Duryea plays a nice guy here with a big problem---his drinking. He's talented, likable and really cares for Vincent. He's practically the whole show but Peter Lorre is also on hand as a mysterious night club owner and a potential suspect. Good noir photography, interesting twists, solid performances from the cast and a good DVD print make this an enjoyable little thriller. Worth watching for noir enthusiasts.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 1998
"Black Angel" is one of my all-time favorite movies. The film benefits from exquisite visuals and remarkable performances by June Vincent and Dan Duryea. Dan Duryea is especially wonderful as Martin Blair. This film shows him at his best, in a role that is surprisingly sympathetic and romantic for an actor that was usually typecast as a villain. The story is without flaw and very ingenious. The entire cast is in top form. The ending will have you sitting on the edge of your seat with suspense!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2004
This seems almost like two movies. The first hour is only mildly entertaining and the dialogue is clunky. As noted by another reviewer, Peter Lorre seems wasted; I think this was partly because his part was not written to be as menacing as it should have been. The excellent Dan Duryea, as the alcholic husband of a murdered woman, is interesting to watch, but he is swimming upstream through all the bad lines he has to speak. The plot line is intriguing enough: the wife (June Vincent) of the convicted killer conducts her own investigation to free him. The story becomes a little hard to swallow, though, because characters are constantly surprised by "new facts" that Miss Vincent uncovers. In the real world, these facts would have been brought to light much earlier. For example, Dan Duryea has never seen a picture of his wife's already-convicted killer until June Vincent shows it to him! He only then realizes that this was not the man he saw going to his wife's apartment shortly before her death. Why wasn't all this unearthed at the trial if not during the police investigation?

The last half hour of the film suddenly explodes into gritty noir, sort of a cross between "Lost Weekend," the "Snake Pit," and "Spellbound." It'a almost as though another director and writer took over. Even the cast is energized. Duryea is at his drunken, perspiring, tortured best and the ending will surprise you. I thought I had the killer identified after the first five minutes of the film, but I was very wrong. So the movie redeems itself in a way that makes you glad you kept watching.

A nice example of low-budget film noir starring an underrated actor, Dan Duryea!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2007
The period immediately following World War Two produced a treasure trove of great film noir efforts. Many of these passed quickly from the scene at the time without making the kind of splash they deserved, enhanced by the fact that so many films were being made as Americans flocked to theaters and spent their money freely in the glittery economic period that followed a tumultuous conflict.

Roy Neill, who directed some of the Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, turned in a gem of a film with the 1946 noir mystery "Black Angel." Stunning blonde June Vincent demonstrates in this film how wrong Hollywood was not to give her more starring assignments.

When Vincent's husband is arrested for a crime he insists he did not commit, the death of blackmailer-singer Constance Dowling, June turns detective in an effort to prove her husband's innocence before he faces an impending execution at San Quentin Prison's gas chamber.

The basic plot is very much like that of another great noir film of the forties, "Phantom Lady", when secretary Ella Raines seeks to prove that her boss and the man she loves, Allen Curtis, is innocent of the murder charge that leaves him awaiting execution at New York's Sing Sing Prison.

The similarity is not surprising in that each film was adapted from a Cornell Woolrich novel, as was also Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window." Roy Chanslor turned in a screenplay containing the admirable story twists and turns that result in great mystery.

When Vincent, in her detective endeavor, seeks help from deceased Dowling's former husband, her former pianist and songwriter, played by Dan Duryea, the plot takes all kinds of interesting plot turns that keep viewers guessing until the film's final scene.

Duryea suspects that nightclub boss Peter Lorre, who was involved with Dowling, might be the guilty party. As a means of obtaining an opportunity for Vincent to gain evidence to use against Lorre, Duryea breaks Vincent in as a singer and gets a job for both of them at Lorre's club.

One moment the onus of suspicion points toward Lorre, and the next in a different direction that astounds Vincent. Meanwhile dogged police investigator Broderick Crawford, a few years from his Oscar winning appearance in "All The King's Men," continues to search and ask questions.

The suspense never lets up and thankfully "The Black Angel" in this new age of film noir appreciation is getting the credit that it so rightfully deserved.
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