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CONFESSIONS OF BOSTON BLACKIE(director: Edward Dmytryk; screenwriter: from the story by Jay Dratler & Paul Yawitz/Paul Yawitz/based on the characters by Jack Boyle; cinematographer: Philip Tannura; editor: Gene Milford; music: M. W. Stoloff; cast: Chester Morris (Boston Blackie), Harriet Hilliard (Diane Parrish), Richard Lane (Inspector Farraday), George E. Stone (The Runt), Lloyd Corrigan (Arthur Manleder), Joan Woodbury (Mona), Walter Sande (Detective Mathews), Ralph Theodore (Buchanan), Kenneth MacDonald (Caulder), Walter Soderling (Eric Allison), Billy Benedict (Ice Cream Man), Martin Spellman (Jimmy Parrish); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Berke; Columbia Pictures; 1942)
“A superior version in the Boston Blackie series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is a superior version in the Boston Blackie series, with Chester Morris in his second screen appearance as Boston Blackie—the safecracker-turned-detective. It’s a part he would play through the 1940s, while a radio version was introduced in 1951 that starred Kent Taylor. Director Edward Dmytryk (“The ‘Human’ Factor”/”Bluebeard”/ “Shalako”) cleverly makes something out of nothing in this exciting and amusing detective yarn. It’s based on the story by Jay Dratler & Paul Yawitz, with Mr. Yawitz also doing the screenplay. Jack Boyle is the colorful author of the original Boston Blackie stories, and the newspaper reporter covering the San Francisco Chinatown beat apparently got addicted to opium and did some prison time.

Diane Parrish (Harriet Hilliard) in need of dough to pay for a sanitarium for her tubercular kid brother Jimmy (Martin Spellman), agrees to let art dealer Eric Allison (Walter Soderling) auction off in his art gallery her heirloom of the Augustus Caesar statue worth some $50,000. Allison is partners with crooks Buchanan (Ralph Theodore), the gallery salesman, and Caulder (Kenneth MacDonald), the auctioneer. A fake statue was created by Allison that they hope to auction off in place of the real one, which is locked in the vault in their secret sealed-off warehouse workshop in the bad part of town. At the auction, Diane shows up and identifies the statue as fake. Buchanan tries to silence her, but the bullet grazes her and accidently kills Allison who was sitting in a chair behind her. Attending the auction to protect the artworks are Inspector Farraday (Richard Lane) and Detective Mathews (Walter Sande). Boston Blackie was at the auction with his eccentric millionaire friend Arthur Manleder (Lloyd Corrigan), who won the bid for the statue. When Blackie fires at the gunman, he is accused of the murder as the Inspector never saw the real killer. Things get messier when Buchanan stuffs Allison’s body in the statue’s secret compartment so the police can’t get a match on the bullet, but Caulder sells the fake for $200 to Arthur. The problem for the crooks is that Arthur has the combination to the safe in his pocket and they now desperately try to get Allison’s body back.

Blackie must elude both the police and the criminals, as he contacts Diane to reassure her that he’s on her side. Funny sketches include a former mercenary showgirl friend of Blackie’s named Mona (Joan Woodbury), who claims to be his wife, showing up to blackmail him for $6,000 in hush money for her silence to the cops and when not getting the lettuce has a temper tantrum destroying his apartment; a running mean-spirited gag over a hapless ice-cream vendor (Billy Benedict) being mugged a few times by Blackie for his uniform; and Blackie’s slow-witted sidekick, The Runt (George E. Stone), going through a lot of bumbling motions while helping his boss.

Dmytryk does wonders with this “B” programmer, done early in his career before he graduated to “A” pictures. It shows what a talented filmmaker can do while working from a low-budget and with a story that is not all that great.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”