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Directed by George Marshall
USA 1946

 

Sterling film noir from the pen of Raymond Chandler. Alan Ladd stars as a war veteran framed for the murder of his own wife. Veronica Lake plays the requisite femme fatale.


This Raymond Chandler-scripted slice of film noir may have been a bit overshadowed by Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep (released in the same year) but merits viewing nonetheless.

Ladd stars as Johnny Morrison, a disillusioned ex-servicemen who discovers the infidelities of his wife (Dowling) - he catches her kissing Eddie Harwood (De Silva), owner of the Blue Dahlia club - on the same night that she is murdered with his gun. Naturally he becomes prime suspect in the killing, not least because he'd pulled his gun on her before walking away.

Unexpected help comes in the shape of Joyce Harwood (a sultry Lake), a woman with a surprising connection to the murder - she's Eddie's ex for starters. She lends a spot of glamour to what is otherwise a very dark tale. The Blue Dahlia is smartly plotted and unpredictable enough to keep the killer's identity a secret. Classy stuff.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

****

Ladd's returning war veteran stalks stoically down those mean streets once more in search of the killer of his wife (Dowling), a faithless floozie undeserving of his concern. Raymond Chandler's script never quite recovers from the Navy Department's objection to having Ladd's war-wounded buddy Bendix, wandering around with a steel plate in his head and intermittent amnesia, turn out to have done the killing (out of outraged loyalty to his friend, then blanking it out in his memory). The plot rewrite involves one or two arbitrary connections and a much less satisfactory conclusion. A fine hardboiled thriller for all that, with excellent dialogue and performances, and much more apt direction from Marshall than one might expect.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

 

  Posters

 

Theatrical Release: April 19th, 1946

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DVD Comparison:

Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL vs. Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL vs. TCM - Region 1 - NTSC

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL LEFT
2) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

Also available in the Dark Crimes Boxset:

Distribution Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL TCM - Region 1 -  NTSC
Runtime 1:35:18 (4% PAL speedup) 1:35:21 (4% PAL speedup) 1:39:39
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.55 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s   
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.8 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.7 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate: (UK)

Bitrate: (German)

Bitrate: (TCM)

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  English (Dolby Digital 2.0),DUB German (Dolby Digital 2.0)  English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, None English, German, None None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Universal UK.

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

DVD Release Date: February 12th, 2007

Keep Case
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: Universal UK.

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Photo Gallery

• Trailer (1:26)

• 12-page essay with 2 photos (in German)

DVD Release Date: May 9th, 2008

Book-style, hardcover, slim case
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: TCM.

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Eddie Muller on Raymond Chandler's The Blue Dahlia (3:40)

• Digital Image Galleries
- Behind-the-Scenes Photos
- Publicity Stills
- Lobby Cards
- Movie Posters
- Scene Stills

DVD Release Date: December 3rd, 20
12
3-tier Digi-pack inside cardboard case
Chapters: 13

 

 

 

Comments:

ADDITION: TCM - Region 1 - NTSC - November 2012: (comments duplicated - covering all three releases) So TCM has put together a new Noir package with the, long awaited in NTSC, black-cinema classics - The Blue Dahlia, Phantom Lady and The Glass Key. So, as Eddie Muller repeats in the DVD extras section, 'finally'. The Ladd/Lake noirs (This Gun For Hire, The Blue Dahlia, and The Glass Key) are an essential part of the cycle and Eddie considers Siodmak (Phantom Lady, Criss Cross, The Dark Mirror) the greatest of all Noir directors.

All three transfers are single-layered and appear to be from the same source as their PAL counterparts with the same light damage/speckles. Contrast improves significantly in The Glass Key and there is notable improvement as well in The Blue Dahlia. Less so in Phantom Lady but the biggest appeal is getting these three iconic Noirs  in there theatrical running time (no PAL speedup).

Extras have Eddie Muller giving short input on all three discs - twice in multiple subjects, we also have a brief, and still classy, Marsha Hunt discussing Noir and an introduction by Ben Mankiewicz for The Glass Key. All three also have Digital image galleries with Behind-the-Scenes Photos, Publicity Stills, Lobby Cards and Movie Posters.

I treasure this set - would love the films in 1080P but it seems such an unfairly long period of time for these important films to reach NTSC. I'll be buying a second set to store in a safety deposit box. Certainly recommended!

***

ADDITION: Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL - November 2011: Disappointment abounds. Unfortunately, this appears to be the same transfer - yes, it has marginally better compression but is still, almost imperceptibly, interlaced and may be slightly greener. Either/or it is not enough of an advancement to recommend. It comes in a nice booklet case, essay (in German) with a trailer and image gallery as part of the dual-layered transfer. A German DUB and subtitles are optional on the PAL encoded disc. 

Koch Media have been doing a series of classic noir with this as the #1 starting release. We've also covered Dark Mirror (#5) and Desert Fury (#4) - both excellent transfers. I had high hopes for this German DVD of the Raymond Chandler-Lake-Ladd classic but price-wise we'd suggest the UK disc as it is significantly cheaper and only marginally inferior. I'd love to see this on Blu-ray one day but even a progressive DVD seems to have been too much to ask the powers that be. Perhaps one day...

***

Overall, I am now not as disappointed as I was expecting to be. We had already heard that The Big Steal, also released in this DVD Noir grouping, was the Turner colorized edition, not - as advertised - the black and white original. So the noir-aficionado community was getting its collective back up in regards to the quality of these releases. But I have had to subsist on a VHS-to-DVD bootleg of this film for a while. It was not badly done at all and even included a trailer but this new Universal UK transfer is certainly superior (see comparison sample below). It is sharper and shows a little more information the frame, is not as heavily contrast boosted, has far less artifacts and offers optional English subtitles. This is by no means a strong transfer - very minor combing is there (although almost invisible), more muddy than I would like, and cue blips (see last capture) and speckles are prevalent - but it is the best we have seen this Noir staple digitally to date. Audio has some minor hiss. The shame of it is that this film deserves an Eddie Muller commentary - or the like - and this new edition is bare-bones.

With Chandler's smooth street-wise dialogue, Ladd's silent-type good looks and Lake's wispy chemistry (the girl was built for Noir) this remains one of the defining films of the stylistic reputation of The Black Cinema. A must-own, in some form, for fans of the style.

NOTE: Favorite Hugh Beaumont plays another important bit part in a strong Noir classic.

Gary W. Tooze



DVD Menus

 

Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL LEFT vs. Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT


 
 
 

 

TCM - Region 1- NTSC

 


 


Subtitle Sample (no subs on the TCM)

 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) Readily available VHS bootleg -TOP
2) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL SECOND
3) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL THIRD

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 

Cue Blip
 
1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 

Chroma (plant to the right of the stairs) on TCM disc

 

DVD Box Cover

Also available in the Dark Crimes Boxset:

Distribution Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL Koch Media - Region 2 - PAL TCM - Region 1 -  NTSC

Recommended Reading in Film Noir (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)




 

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Gary Tooze

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