Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Black Glove (1954)

'The Black Glove' was a British noir-but-not-really-noir released by the famed Hammer Studios in 1954. Long-time Hammer director Terence Fisher directed, with Walter J. Harvey handling the cinematography and Kenny Baker and Ivor Slaney responsible for the musical score. The screenplay was written by Ernest Borneman, after his own novel 'Face The Music', which was also the title under which this movie was released in the UK. 'The Black Glove' was its name for the US release.

Alex Nicol ('The Screaming Skull', 'The Sleeping City') plays famous US trumpet player James 'Brad' Bradley, who's touring the UK. After the 1st show he ends up in a nightclub on the way back to the hotel, where he meets jazz singer Maxine Halbard (Ann Hanslip). They instantly connect and she invites him to her apartment for a late dinner and some innuendo talk, done in rhyme. The next morning, the police wake him up in his hotel bed. He's a suspect in the murder case of Maxine, as his trumpet case was found in her apartment, and she was found murdered around the same time as when he claims to have left her apartment. He tries to find out the truth about Maxine's death, and comes into contact with her sister Barbara Quigley (Eleanor Summerfield), famous pianist Jeff Colt (Arthur Lane), barpianist Johnny Sutherland (Paul Carpenter) and recording studio owner Maurie Green (Geoffrey Keen, a very familiar face in British 50s & 60s movies as well as several James Bond movies). There's also a mysterious LP in the middle of all this, with a recording of Maxine and Colt on it, except Colt denies having ever made that recording. Bradley has to make sense out of all of it to clear his name and find the real killer.

The movie is a pretty straight-forward murder-mystery, but does lack in tension. Bradley's neurotic manager Max 'Maxie' Margulies (John Salew) doesn't help much either, he was clearly created to provide some comic relief. Unfortunately it works against the movie, also with Bradley making light of the manager's schedule before leaving the hotel to investigate Maxine's murder several times in the movie. There is also a short scene where Bradley is trying out new trumpets to replace the one impounded by the police, that is supposed to be funny, but feels even more out of place here than Max's character. The movie does however have some interesting characters and good dialogue. Maxine and her sister Barbara are very different but both are witty and can handle themselves in a conversation, albeit in completely different ways. Despite Maxine having such a small part in the movie, I felt she was given a 3-dimensional character and her exchange in rhyme with Bradley was quite riveting and full of innuendo. Barbara is the tough-speaking girl with the soft inside, who has only a sliver of the singing talent that her sister had and who feels unloved and unwanted in general. Alex Nicol is pretty decent as James Bradley, also when he's playing trumpet. But his character jumps too much between a tough, determined character and a more lighthearted character, specifically in his exchanges with his manager, which makes him seem less desperate than he ought to be.

Visually things are pretty straight-forward as well, there are only a few interesting shots and very little was done to add a dark, moody atmosphere to the various sets. There are a couple of shots taken from the point of view of Bradley, specifically when he's perusing through an addressbook. To make it more 'lifelike', there's a fluttering going on during these shots, as if Bradley/the viewer is blinking their eyes. I suppose it was done to look clever and smart, but it comes off looking like there's something wrong with the reel.

The music has a jazzy big band feel to it, and the main musical theme of the movie is quite nice. Kenny Baker wrote that theme and he is also seen alongside Bradley as the band leader during the scenes where Bradley performs in the Palladium theater.

This movie is included on VCI's Hammer Noir DVD series but, as with more of these movies, the movie lacks any real noir elements. It is still an entertaining murder-mystery however with an innocent man trying to prove his innocence and solve the murder. I prefer this one over the previous Hammer 'noir' I reviewed, 'Terror Street'/'36 Hours', mostly due to Nicol's performance and the interesting characters. All in all a decent movie, but marred by a lack of tension and out-of-place comic relief.

I couldn't find a trailer for this movie, but here's the scene in which James Bradley meets Maxine Halbard:

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