austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Some things in the past are better left behind

Boston Blackie Booked On Suspicion has Blackie impersonate seriously ill rare-book-dealer Mister Kittredge in order to run an auction of a rare Pickwick Papers publication, and before he can even start that Farraday's prowling around the bookshop as he and Sargeant Matthews have read the script and know what to expect. Wouldn't you know it but someone's gone and forged a copy, which the printer claims couldn't ever possibly be detected, so yeah, the scene right after the auction an incorrect comma is noticed. And Farraday suspects Blackie because he knows that's why he's in this movie.

Now, here's the thing. Arousing Farraday's suspicions is that Blackie went missing the day before the auction, which would be when Blackie started impersonating Kittredge. Blackie's stayed on impersonating Kittredge because the bookstore needs to have him appear to be around still (although why after the auction this is important I'm not sure). Blackie's disappearance seems significant. Farraday even talks with Blackie-as-Kittredge pointing out this disappearance. Why not tell Farraday (who suspiciously fails to notice the guy he's been wrongly accusing for fifteen years, including sometimes in pretty much the same disguise, is talking with him) about this? Blackie explains to the bookstore folks later on that in the time he'd take being arrested and cleared the real crooks would get away, but, it's not like being arrested this early in the picture ever actually slows Blackie down.

Blackie follows the slender trail of clues to the Perfessor, Steve, who made the defective forgery, and also happens to catch the envelope with the $62,000 from the auctioned book, because the Steve's partner has managed --- and this took quite some doing --- to get the envelope caught in the door on the way out of shooting him dead. Despite Blackie's being arrested for the Steve's shooting --- have to admit, being caught holding the smoking gun over the freshly-killed person is kind of incriminating --- he escapes, making use of the crime scene photographer.

The story moves into some pretty good-spirited follow-the-plot-token hijinks. The key macguffin is the envelope originally put in a safe, and transferred to a hollowed-out book, and then handed off to that character actor who shows up as the befuddled managerial kind of guy in every film. Then there's how Blackie is impersonating Kittredge, and apparently successfully fooling Farraday, who's searching for Blackie (including by arresting and then releasing Runt, on the theory Runt will go right to Blackie). Then there's Steve's partners in crime, one of whom is secretly working at the bookstore. There's pretty near no end of double-crossing, to the point the plot becomes gibberish if you're trying to just half-watch it, which makes this a rather good choice for something to watch while doing WiiFit Step Aerobics.

This is another Boston Blackie film featuring an escape through a dumbwaiter, by the way. This one films it in an interesting way, too, with a long shot of the column, as Blackie climbs up and down it, with the sides blacked out so that we can pretend it's a cross-section of the building being viewed. It's visually striking and almost distracts from how Blackie somehow finds another excuse to don blackface, this time pretending to be a porter.

Another feature this film is a coerced confession: Blackie gets the actual ringleader to confess at the point of a gun, with a conspirator (apparently) shot before her eyes. More, it's a confession Blackie dictates, word for word. Except this scene then plunges into something near incoherence: the conspirator gets up from the floor, since Blackie was shooting blanks, but then why did he fall over? All right, say he's turned and is working with Blackie ... then why does he get up and start fighting Blackie? Farraday breaks in, and catches everyone. Blackie turns over the ``real confession'' --- she thought she burned it in the scrim --- and she blurts out how she was being double-crossed, only to reveal (another double-cross!) that Blackie turned over a blank sheet of paper since she did burn the real coerced confession. And yet somehow this is confession enough to take her away?

So, alas, a story with a lot of involved and really interesting double-crosses ends up not quite able to unwind all the plots in the last scene so they fit together. That's a shame, but it stays reliably interesting, and pretty well-paced, throughout. I can forgive the resolution not really being there.

Trivia: An Associated Press report dated 7 October 1943 claimed the Dvorak keyboard allowed typists to ``zip along at 180 words per minute''. A Business Week report of 16 October 1943 gave the Dvorak keyboard test speed at 108 words per minute. Source: The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting, Darren Wershler-Henry.

Currently Reading: All The Best Rubbish: Being An Antiquary's Account of the Pleasures and Perils of Studying and Collecting Everyday Objects from the Past, Ivor Noël Hume.

Tags: boston blackie, movies

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