Black Angel (1946)

As I said the other day, I’ve actually read the Cornell Woolrich book this film was made from (I was going through a bit of a classic crime phase at the time which saw me exploring Woolrich, Chandler, Hammett, both Cains, Goodis, Thompson, etc). However, it’s long enough ago since I did read it that, frankly, I don’t really recall much about it, though I do remember enough that I can see why Woolrich apparently hated the film for the liberties it took with the source text. Anyway, as I also said, the plot isn’t a million miles removed from Phantom Lady—man unjustly accused of murder, wife must find out the real killer before it’s too late—although with a somewhat different development. Dan Duryea, the villain of Scarlet Street, gets to play far more sympathetic here, which gives the film’s conclusion the weight it needs. Even Woolrich’s admirers, apparently, agree that plausibility wasn’t his strong suit, and the film’s ultimate revelation of the real killer will likely strike most viewers as inadequately prepared for at best. That it doesn’t just seem too bizarrely unlikely says something about how well the whole thing is played. A pretty fair send-off for director Roy Wm. Neill, who died soon after the film was finished.

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