Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Glass Key

1942 saw the release of two film noirs starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. The first was This Gun for Hire, which firmly put Ladd and Lake amongst the greats of noir. (It's also the best-known of their seven-film collaboration.) The second one got lost amongst the other titles of 1942 but stands out on its own.

That film is Stuart Heisler's The Glass Key. Based on Dashiell Hammett's novel of the same name. it's a tale of political corruption and murder. And like The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon (also adaptations of Hammett's work), it's a perplexing whodunnit.

In comparison to The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key is noticeably more violent in nature.At one point in the film, Ladd's face is beaten to a pulpy mess (well, as pulpy as the Hays Code can allow) by a goon. Even for a film released during the height of World War II, it's pretty vicious.

Plot-wise, you have to pay close attention to what's unfolding. Much like The Big Sleep in the years to come, there's a menagerie of characters ranging from those that lurk in the background to those only around for a handful of scenes. (A list of who's who might be necessary.)

Though not on the same level of greatness as The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key holds its own. Thanks to Ladd's natural charisma, he has a comfortable mood as he faces off against tough guys and even tougher dames (Lake included). It's a lesser-known title amongst the numerous film noirs but that doesn't mean it's one you should ignore.

My Rating: ****

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