Boston Blackie And The Law starts at the Annual Thanksgiving Party in the Womens State Penitentiary [sic], where Boston Blackie is putting on a magic show for the inmates. This is a completely and totally different movie from Alias Boston Blackie, where it was a Christmas show, for male inmates. Plus this time around there's no wasting of time: the inmate picked for the vanishing-woman illusion actually disappears in just about the first scene, and Blackie's held on suspicion even if it's kind of a dopey scheme: even if he had any contact with the escapee before she volunteered for the illusion, what kind of dope breaks someone out of jail with every prisoner, guard, and officer staring at him?
Blackie and the disappearing-woman box get shipped to Farraday's office, since how better to clear up a crime scene than dismantling it entirely? And in a scene taking about three weeks to play out, Blackie escapes from Farraday's custody while Sergeant Matthews takes an axe to the box. Blackie investigates the archive of Spinning Newspaper Headlines and discovers his volunteer was a former magician's assistant herself, sent up the river for three years following a bank heist that her partner had actually done. Not only is she unfairly in prison, but now her ex-partner's getting married to someone not her and you can see how that forces her to break out of jail and seek B Movie Revenge on the vaudeville star.
Blackie takes the magician's place so that the story can repeat beats from Alias Boston Blackie as much as possible (also to try flushing out the ex), while Farraday and Sargent Matthews pace back and forth in the trolley line bar from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, redressed as a semi-furnished apartment. I've also mentioned earlier about how Sargent Matthews is perceived by the other characters, Farraday particularly, as a blathering nincompoop even though he's usually the one who picks up on what's actually going on. That tradition's upheld here; in the course of figuring out where to locate the vaudevillian, it's Matthews who points out they could at least try looking him up in the phone book. The principle is good, although by then Blackie's impersonating him, and neither Farraday nor Matthews notices that right off.
There's a nice enough character scene here, where Blackie has a key he's sure will take him to the stolen macguffin, in this case the money the magician was suspected of stealing and that his ex went up the river for, but hasn't any idea where it might be. So he finds an experienced locksmith and during the duplicating gets to chatting about how he can just tell from the shape of these things what this is a key for (a safety deposit vault, of course; I find this possible), and for what bank (I find this conceivable but a stretch), and for which branch of that bank (oh, come on, but we have to connect the plot somewhere I guess).
Part of Blackie's impersonation of the magician has him take out thousand-dollar bills, from the theft that set all this off, and holding them up to set them on fire, toss them in a box and show them come out unharmed. This interests me since part of the story patter is, besides assuring all that this is real legitimate US currency, it's claimed that it's illegal to burn money. I don't expect perfect fidelity to actual law in this kind of movie --- after all, look what they do for stuff like chains of evidence and coercion of confessions --- but it's interesting tracking the urban legend about destroying money.
Blackie and Runt get time for another escape-from-custody scene too, this time using the gimmick of ``teaching the jailer how to do the old reading minds'' gag. I suppose movies and TV shows would be much slower and might never get around to finishing their stories if security guards had any sense whatsoever, but, boy, that's very dumb considering.
I've given the plot beats little attention this time around, but that's a little unfair. There's a fair amount of scheming and impersonating and double-crossing, including I should note outright deceptions being perpetrated by the magician and by his fiancee, but they all seem to be reasonably well-motivated both by the plot and by what people might conceivably do if they lived in this sort of B-movie universe. It also means the climax is intellectually satisfying: all sorts of plot tokens have gotten moved around, but the movement has content.
Trivia: During the 29 October 1929 stock market crash, the transatlantic cable broke. Source: Devil Take the Hindmost, Edward Chancellor.
Currently Reading: The Edifice Complex: How The Rich And Powerful --- And Their Architects --- Shape The World, Deyan Sudjic.