austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

The images as clear as day

A Close Call For Boston Blackie opens with Blackie and Runt already in Inspector Farraday's police car, but does the normal fakeout rather than actually beginning in media res. They're being dropped off after helping sort out some woman's problems, and Farraday warns, every time Blackie looks at a woman it gets him into trouble. Sure enough, as soon as Farraday drives off, Blackie sees a woman getting mugged and brings her to his apartment. Gerry's a woman from his past, someone he'd encouraged not to get married, and oh did we mention she somehow left her baby in Blackie's bedroom before she was mugged? Her husband was paroled, and she never visited him, and he doesn't even know about the baby and there's inheritances involved and so on. Blackie tries calling Farraday, but her husband breaks in, there's a scuffle, and someone from outside the apartment shoots him, and of course, the police are racing in.

Blackie's natural impulse to hide the body doesn't fool Farraday, really, but it takes time getting there, and the body's found and the baby's overheard. Farraday, not outrageously given the backstory, supposes it to be a case of romantic entanglement gone wrong. Blackie tries escaping --- by taking the corpse's place on the coroner's stretcher --- although Farraday's on to it, so when Blackie wakes up in the morgue Farraday and Matthews are watching. I have mentioned before the varying intelligence levels assigned Farraday and Matthews in these; here they're batting above average, and that should be good for the story, although given that this is the tenth iteration of various scenes about Farraday accusing Blackie of a murder he has nothing to do with, the dialogue and energy and general fun aren't crackling enough.

While Runt tries to entertain the kid --- and goes out for milk, dressed as a nurse, of course because he's the comic relief, which is why he meets up with a female milkman voiced by what sounds like Thurl Ravenscroft, ha ha ha --- Gerry gets back to her co-conspirators, laying out for the audience that it's the fake-baby scam, used to get money out of her husband's father. This is different for the series, foreshadowing the Columbo style mystery where you know who done it and wait to see how it's proved, and I wonder why the change. Is it just that the story would be incomprehensible if we had to follow all the threads Blackie gets, without a long exposition-heavy scene at the end? Or were they trying to vary the stories that could be told? This is by itself a weird Blackie story, since it doesn't play into his backstories of being a safecracker or jewel thief at all. Possibly the story was developed for another property and hastily added to the Blackie series.

Blackie fools Matthews into letting him escape, although Matthews was faking it --- see what I mean about their intelligence level being higher this innings? --- and means to follow Blackie to the baby. Blackie outwits the pursuit, but Matthews has a fair idea and is justified in telling Farraday that it's a scheme Farraday would likely have tried. Farrady does awfully well, too, in seeing through cover stories, although since he's scrutinizing people who really and sincerely have no idea what's going on these are a lot of scenes that don't accomplish anything.

Gerry goes to Farraday and tells of her ongoing romance with Blackie and how Blackie shot her husband, and Farraday connects her to her husband's father's attorney, making a link that I'm not sure the scammers could have managed on their own. This probably indicates why they had to get Blackie involved, apart from getting the husband killed in a way they wouldn't be convicted of, but I would think anyone pulling a confidence trick would try to keep police out of it. Meanwhile, Blackie's realized, from a lie Gerry told her landlady, that she's pulling some kind of scam --- just in time, as Farraday shows up to arrest Blackie for this killing. Runt arranges a deus ex comedy relief, by getting a dog-walker with about seven billion animals to run through the apartment and viciously lick the detectives. (Matthews is chased up an ottoman by a bichon frise.)

Blackie, doing the minimum required actual detective work --- checking with the department of health --- finds Gerry didn't have any baby born anytime in the last three years, so Blackie, Runt, and Runt's girlfriend Mamie --- who's in a lot of scenes for not having much agency --- figure to have Blackie pretend to be the kid's (supposed) grandfather, since that's usually the way to clear up parentage shakedown scams.

Blackie pretends to be the grandfather, using the same generic old man costume he's used several times already. He uses the documents Gerry provides to determine she's pulling a scam, which brings her henchman in with the gun. Meanwhile, Farraday gets to the hotel where Gerry's operating, catches the Runt and Mamie, and breaks in on Blackie's scene where he merrily arrests everyone. For one thing, Matthews was disguised in old man costume to be a fake grandfather. For another, Farraday arrested the conspirators since he also checked the birth records, and let Blackie go to all this trouble when he had the mystery penetrated just to do a callback to the joke about how women always get him into trouble.

Trivia: On 1 October 1890 Benjamin Harrison signed the bill making the Weather Bureau a civilian service. Source: A History of the United States Weather Bureau, Donald R Whitnah.

Currently Reading: The Edifice Complex: How The Rich And Powerful --- And Their Architects --- Shape The World, Deyan Sudjic.

Tags: boston blackie, movies

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