Tags: boston blackie

krazy koati

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.

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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.

krazy koati

Every night I dream of you

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?

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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.

krazy koati

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.

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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.

krazy koati

Everyday I think of you, you're on my mind

One Mysterious Night is a curiously strong entry in the Boston Blackie series, considering this was like the 85th film in the string of B pictures. But it seems to me to do very nicely at keeping the essential elements which make the Boston Blackie story distinct --- there's none of that attempt to break into other genres which made various Lone Wolf entries flop --- while feeling fresh. Case in point, the opening shot is of a street corner sign, which starts to spin, faster and faster, until it drops out of sight. Why? I suppose just to make sure we notice we're in the pricey areas of Fifth Avenue, and why establish that in a dull static shot, even if there's no reason for the sign to rotate?

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Anyway, various kidnappings, escapes, costumes, et cetera --- really, a surprising amount of plot in the back half-hour of the picture, considering it doesn't feel rushed --- and the jewel is recovered, the newspaper reporter has her story, and Boston Blackie is vindicated wholly. Really good show all around.

Trivia: Mercator's Chronologia, mapping all of history, was complete by October 1568 (the publication date was 1569); Christophe Plantin sold twelve copies to a buyer in Paris almost immediately, and by the end of 1569 had sold another 24 copies. Source: Mercator, Nicholas Crane.

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.

PS: Reading the Comics, October 25, 2012, for those who haven't been doing that on their own and are worried they missed some math jokes.

krazy koati

I'm much too strong not to compromise

After Midnight With Boston Blackie wastes no time introducing Barnaby, who looks like Ray Walston three years after he died, being released finally from prison so he can violently cough into a handkerchief. Meanwhile Inspector Farraday intercepts a train porter's message for Blackie, and to show that Blackie somehow handcuffed the inspector's ankle to the train seat regardless of how impossible that would be. Farraday stops in to deliver generic warnings to Blackie. This all ought to set up needed exposition but it more kind of fills time while stuff gets going. It doesn't get going until the train ride is over and Blackie learns from Barnaby's daughter that Barnaby's gone missing.

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Some folks are fickle.

Trivia: To defuse the tension in the White House while waiting for the returns from the state elections of 11 October 1864, Abraham Lincoln read aloud from a pamphlet with the latest writings of humorist Petroleum V Nasby. Source: Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin. (And apparently he drove Stanton crazy by doing so.)

Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Launching The World's First Satellites, Matt Bille, Erika Lishock.

Somebody must have written the alternate history where Lincoln goes into the humor business, instead of politics, possibly as a Nasby-like writer, possibly as a Dan Rice-like superclown. Mustn't they?

krazy koati

I can see it took so long just to realize

The Chance Of A Lifetime has Boston Blackie arguing that criminals should be given this so-called ``parole'' for matters like war work, and despite Inspector Farraday's skepticism they go ahead with a test program, twelve criminals released into Blackie's custody for war work. This film --- directed by William Castle, to inspire many interesting movie-themed gimmicks, by the way --- makes an interesting character step on the way for Blackie and his quest to reform from his safecracking past.

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The actual bad guy is coerced into confession, in one of those moves that reminds you that even in the 1940s, before the Bill of Rights was discovered, courts wouldn't just accept anything as evidence.

Trivia: The first time the New York Stock Exchange saw 20 million shares traded in a single day was on April 10, 1968. By the end of 1968 there had been five more 20-million-share days. Source: The Go-Go Years, John Brooks.

Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Launching The World's First Satellites, Matt Bille, Erika Lishock.

PS: Just One More Ride?, about how many more times I could expect to ride Disaster Transport using the coin flipping scheme to decide whether to ride again.

krazy koati

The road is calling; today is the day

Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood opens with a thief breaking into Boston Blackie's dark apartment. The thief is wearing a hat. Of course he is; it's the 40's. Blackie and Runt are in the other room, getting ready for a trip to Florida. The police show up swiftly, with officer Matthews arresting Blackie, unaware that Blackie's the legitimate tenant and not at all the burglar, who turns out to be Inspector Farraday after all.

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There's the usual sort of amusing little incidents, including a bit where they run up the fire escapes (people always run up fire escapes in these pictures) and through the apartment of an elderly couple, which Blackie excuses with a little small talk. They remark on having no idea what just happened, but ``he seemed nice''. From such comic elements are this kind of movie made.

Trivia: IBM's Type 405 Alphabetic Accounting Machine, introduced in the early 1930s, allowed IBM systems to process 150 cards per minute and to print out tabulated information in both numbers and words. Source: The Maverick And His Machine: Thomas Watson Sr and the Making of IBM, Kevin Maney.

Currently Reading: The Best Of Fredric Brown, Fredric Brown. Curiously all the internal pages credit the book to editor Robert Bloch.

krazy koati

I don't mind where I get taken

Alias Boston Blackie opens on Christmas, as Blackie and sidekick Runt figure to take the clown Roggi McKay and other performers up to Sing Sing. But the sister of one of Roggi's old partners, Joe, pleads for a message to be passed to him. She's visited too many times, but Blackie agrees to sneak her up, though Farraday joins the expedition so backstory can be dumped on the audience in case we didn't understand Blackie's mischievous past.

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Happy ending, except for the sense of justice.

Trivia: George Washington's will bequeathed the stock he held in the Patowmack Company, dedicated to building a canal from the Potomac River to the west, to support the endowment of a national university. Source: The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac and the Race to the West, Joel Achenbach.

Currently Reading: Ace Science Fiction Reader, Editor Donald A Wollheim. Featuring Clifford Simak's ``The Trouble With Tycho'', Jack Vance's ``The Last Castle'', Samuel R Delany's ``Empire Star'', and a foreward by Wollheim about how awesomely great Ace Doubles are and how great this Triple is, especially in how it finds promising new talent such as by printing abridged versions of Asimov's first two Foundation novels back in the 50s that swiftly fell out of print.

krazy koati

It's been too long since I felt this way

Confessions of Boston Blackie is the second entry in a series of B-movies starring Chester Morris as Boston Blackie, reformed safecracker who keeps getting suspected of every crime Inspector Farraday (Richard Lane) hears about who somehow isn't legally The Lone Wolf. This story starts with a statue of Augustus Caesar being auctioned, and also being copied for the sort of counterfeit scam that's always going on in rare art auctions in B-movie detective-story universes. Inspector Farraday asks Blackie right away what he's doing at the auction, and it's a good question, but mostly, he's invited there and went because otherwise how would the movie get Boston Blackie into it?

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It's an all right movie. It never quite convinces this viewer that anything is not taking place in a studio set --- even the street intersection doesn't look like they went to the backlot --- and it hasn't got even the scope of the previous movie's spy schemes, or any particularly strong dialogue or even just loopy fun scenes. Several threaten to really catch hold --- the fire particularly --- but it hasn't quite got the life needed for it.

Trivia: The premiere episode of ABC's Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell featured cameos by Frank Sinatra and Ted Kennedy, a performance by John Denver, a duet featuring Jimmy Connors and Paul Anka, and the American debut of the Bay City Rollers (hyped by Cosell as ``the next Beatles''). Source: The House That Roone Built: The Inside Story Of ABC News, Marc Gunther.

Currently Reading: Undersea Fleet, Frederik Pohl, Jack Williamson. Oh, good, Polynesian offshoots who mutated into deep-sea creatures who, what do you know, get to experience the colonial enslavement side of Western Civilization. Also there's stampedes of Loch Ness Monsters. And the more that the magic 'edenite' used to maintain pressures against deep ocean pressure is on-screen the flimsier it looks. It's a blessing when Pohl and Williamson look more at neat discoveries of exotic lifeforms instead.

krazy koati

Don't look back; a new day is breaking

Meet Boston Blackie is the first in a series of movies about the honorable-jewel-thief. In this series he's reformed. I know the character from radio, where every single episode somebody gets killed, Inspector Faraday declares Blackie the culprit, and Blackie goes solving the mystery. I believe on radio he was reformed too. The movie seems curiously uninterested in whether we know he's the ``enemy to those who make him an enemy, friend to those who have no friend'', in the radio series's catchphrase. Possibly that's in the books too. The backstory and I think even his name aren't fully given until twenty minutes in.

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Also adding to its appeal are the many scenes set at the amusement park, which might well be named Skyland (``The Playground Of The World'', says one sign). No roller coasters, but a carousel, a dark ride, a number of redemption games and the freak show that's centerpiece for the spy ring. It adds to the style of the thing.

Trivia: In 1924 there were an estimated 750 individuals or companies promoting gland-rejuvenation treatments in the United States. Source: Charlatan: American's Most Dangerous Huckster, The Man Who Pursued Him, And The Age Of Flimflam, Pope Brock.

Currently Reading: They Fly At Çiron, Samuel R Delany.