27 December 2005 | rsoonsa
After The Few Borrowed Elements From The Original Are Peeled Away, Little Of Interest Remains.
A prolific writer of detective pulp fiction during the 1930s and 1940s, Robert Bellem, created a quipping private eye, Dan Turner, in 1934 and he was featured in over 300 Bellem stories extending over thirteen years, being first-fiddle in his own periodical for eight of them, and being awarded cinematic recognition in the 1947 Republic Pictures BLACKMAIL, William Marshall performing as Turner and Grant Withers as Inspector Donaldson, this 1990 release only the second film appearance for the tough-talking detective whose milieu was tucked away within Hollywood's bustling motion picture industry. For this latter-day melodrama, Marc Singer creates a distinctive Dan Turner, albeit the original's inventive use of slang is toned down, while amid the usual predictable sequences and cardboard characters are the sleuth's to-be-expected troublous relationships with the police and with a filming cast and crew, including a profusion of willing, when not actually insistent, women, a philandering director with a hidden agenda, and a jealous producer with his faithless movie star wife, and other types familiar to readers of Bellem's tales. The setting is 1947 Hollywood, although the footage is shot in Tulsa where less than convincing locations within the Oklahoma city are meant to be southern California sites such as night clubs and an amusement park. Turner is framed for murder, actively trying to clear himself of the false charge while on the lam, still eager in spite of his less than bright future to earn a large retainer fee tendered him by a studio bigwig who hired Dan for the purpose of discovering the identity of a blackmailer preying upon his wife, she acted with her customary lack of skill by Tracy Scoggins. Shown on more than 200 cable and prime time stations, this work was then released to video with a title of THE RAVEN RED KISS-OFF, and additionally there was talk of a potential television series; however, a misguided attempt to combine slapstick with detection taints the film, and since it therefore must rely upon its value as entertainment, it must be stated that such is not at hand here. Direction is weak throughout and, as a result, so is most of the playing while, despite sincere efforts to recreate an accurate period feeling, largely successful with production design, costumes and vehicles, in addition to black and white stills displayed as backdrop during the opening credits, anachronisms abound, notably with men's hair styles, and accents and dialects are flagrantly uneven. If more of Bellem's outrageously original slang had been utilized, its verbal dexterity would possibly have served to offset, to a degree, the lifeless helmsmanship.