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BOOMSHADOW: DANA ANDREWS COURTROOM NOIR DOUBLE

Poster Art and DVD Cover YEAR: 1956
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, DANA ANDREWS & FILM NOIR: Following the career of Dana Andrews and dedicating two months spotlighting his eclectic career, the man's become a sort of "Six Degrees," connecting actors, actresses, directors and even similar themes within particular genres...

This isn't only Dana's month, but director Otto Preminger's as well (while next month's centered on both James Stewart and director Anthony Mann, covering the films they did together and separately)...

For example, three Westerns (reviewed soon) that starred or co-starred Andrews, all center on or involve a lynch mob kangaroo court. His characters are either an opponent or possible-victim: And in two Noir ventures, the same theme plays out only in the "modern" post-war era, trading the hangman with the electric chair (or a more modern hangman); starting out with...

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, which, with the exception of a slight variation on a completely predictable twist i.e. a twist within a twist, is one of Dana Andrews weakest Film Noir outings, and it's a complete shock that that genre's top-shelf director, THE BIG HEAT auteur Fritz Lang, had anything to do with it. The pace is slow-moving and uncreative, resembling a drowsy television program as each scene has the actors standing, and talking. Talking, and standing. And during sporadic courtroom scenes, sitting, listening, and talking some more...

DOUBLE: Beyond a Shadow Doubt SCORE: **
Few sites call to attention any vehicle written by and starring 1970's improvisational comic actor Tim Conway while reviewing a political Film Noir, but it must be done: His surprisingly effective prison romp THEY WENT THAT-A-WAY & THAT-A-WAY centers on two inept highway patrolmen given an assignment by the Governor to go undercover as felons at an infamous chain-gang penitentiary to check the conditions inside...

This includes being tried and convicted of a crime, and only the Governor knows about it... Before their road adventure escape, the two goofs wind up serving a possible life-sentence with no evidence of their mission, and you can easily guess the reason why...

Year: 1947
Future ROSEMARY'S BABY devil-agent Sidney Blackmer plays an ultra progressive-advocate against the death penalty. He abhors a political climbing lawyer having too much pleasure in sending men to the electric chair. A desperate idea arises: to find someone beyond-innocent for the recent death of an exotic dancer in order to be tried, convicted, and then, at the last minute, revealed as a shill to prove how, without a substantial witness or evidence, no one should sizzle in the hot-seat. The perfect candidate is his former star reporter, Andrews' Tom, working on a novel and engaged to his high society daughter. The most intriguing scenes show Andrews undercover, traipsing in and out of a strip-joint, trying to hook up with the dancer-friend of the slain victim. The strippers, despite yammering in a put-on "New Yawwk" accent, are the most real and grounded things get, despite sounding like an actor's workshop.

While the idea, seeming creative in the 70's Tim Conway flick (the plot's been used other places as well, including the fairly recent Sly Stallone flick, ESCAPE PLAN), is intriguing, the extremely dull and lethargic manner of how it's pulled off, before and after the trial... even noted by suspicious ingenue Joan Fontaine... make this quickie programmer more a sleeping pill than an effective thriller. It's impossible to figure out who's more of an obvious cliche: the "Yay" man of Capital Punishment or the two "Nay" dolts going too far to prove a not-so-buried agenda with a predictable turnout, albeit curbed by that aforementioned 11th hour surprise wherein, luckily for fans of Dana Andrews, he wakes up enough to finally earning his paycheck.

BOOMERANGE Score: **
And speaking of swift, uneven, questionable justice – a decade earlier, another courtroom melodrama Film Noir with soon-to-be groundbreaking A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and ON THE WATERFRONT director Elia Kazan pushes that theme's envelope to the hilt, and beyond: Never has one man been so innocent as Arthur Kennedy's otherwise wayward drifting war hero. In fact, Andrews, as the initially headstrong prosecutor, changes sides after one conversation with the person The State is all-too determined to punish – since it had taken too long to find the killer, and goaded by the press (never blamed in old movies), the first worthy culprit becomes "the best" choice. And while the direction is passably taut and, along with Lee J. Cobb as a put-upon police chief and the often too-perfect idealist Sam Levene (who rarely plays a character that doesn't seem to know more than anyone) as a reporter, who, as the writer's mouthpiece, had his mind up made up even before the street-corner slaying of a beloved small town priest, BOOMERANG! is less of an ambiguous programmer and more an overtly obvious morality tale, and yet, this bleeding heart does have heart.

Lee J. Cobb and Dana Andrews in BOOMERANG!
A Second Glimpse into BOOMERANG, much angrier, written for IMdB, not written in the usual style of this site but, still, it needed shared here: A Closeup on one of the witnesses coke bottle glasses. Another closeup on the feeble old obviously insane bum as one of the culprits in the ridiculously eclectic police lineup. The expressions of the shunned waitress that screams "I'm lying and just seeking revenge." Scenes where townsfolk speak to each other which sound like a much too perfectly timed rehearsal. The politicians having a meeting while an idyllic putting green of a golf course sleeps in the background. Ed Begley pulling a gun, and thus making leading man Dana Andrews's role that much less mysterious and engrossing. Sam Levene, as usual, playing the perfectly wise "progressive" working man, who knows more than anyone with a wink, almost directed right at the audience. And a narrator that pours on the grim irony behind a pseudo-documentary template.

Another shot of Cobb and Andrews in BOOMERANG!
BOOMERANG is extremely disappointing, especially since it's a movie starring Cult Film Freak Cinema's favorite actor, Dana Andrews, and directed by one of my favorite directors, Elia Kazan, who hadn't yet met Marlon Brando i.e hit his stride, and became more subtle, and implied...

Idealistic is an understatement for this contrived Film Noir that's hardly a Film Noir. And that's the word to center on... The one connected to Under... Which is, Statement. This movie is not only making one, it's screaming like a wounded and abused banshee: And all this is why Dana's usual director, Otto Preminger, hit it outta the ballpark with his masterpiece Anatomy of a Murder, by having all the characters ambiguous, and, unlike BOOMERANG, remaining realistic without having heroes and villains. Such characters should never be anywhere near a Courtroom Drama. Anyhow: Dana Andrews did a good job and stayed tried and true despite starring in a movie that not only made up its mind from the start, but takes sides, one side... One-Sided, and beyond!
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