Blackmail (1939)

Passed   |    |  Crime, Drama, Thriller

Blackmail (1939) Poster

John Ingram, successful oil-field firefighter, is really a chain-gang escapee. Someone out of his past finds him...


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11 January 2000 | David-240
| Great start, great end - boring middle.
This film starts with a bang - literally. It also ends with a bang. You see Edward G is an oil-fire fighter in Oklahoma - and he's doing really well. Great job (if a little dangerous), great house, great wife, great kid. Trouble is he is actually a fugitive from a chain gang - and his past is about to catch up with him. A shame it does really because the scenes of Eddy walking fearlessly into fire-balls are unforgettable. A story about the lives of oil-fire-fighters would have been a lot more interesting than the rather dull blackmail leading to a return to chain gang stuff. The chain gang scenes never live up to those of the masterpiece "I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" - but I wouldn't be surprised if Hitler got a few ideas on his slave labor camps from this film. Were the chain gangs of the thirties really this brutal? If so there were a few "war criminals" in the Southern USA.

Anyway the film drifts back to oil fires at the end - and the climax is really spectacular. It is enhanced by Ed's magnificent performance, and an unforgettable snivelling evil performance from Gene Lockhart. Both rise above the ordinary material. Also impressive is Guinn Williams, but the very talented Ruth Hussey is given little to do but look worried, and Bobs Watson is VILE as the cry-baby son. All in all good MGM entertainment, with some great sequences.

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