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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 December 2016
THE GLASS KEY [1942 / 2016] [Blu-ray] The Tougher They Are . . . The Harder They Fall! Dashiell Hammett’s 1942 Film Noir Thriller!

Twists, double-crosses and political intrigue abound in this classic thriller starring the golden couple of “film noir,” Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd [‘The Blue Dahlia’ and ‘This Gun For Hire’].

A crooked political boss, Paul Madvig [Brian Donlevy], falls for Janet Henry [Veronica Lake], daughter of a prospective Baltimore governor, and decides to mend his ways. However, when Janet s no-good brother turns up dead, Paul Madvig’s colourful past returns to haunt him as he is fingered as the likely suspect. Which of his many enemies conspired to frame him? And can he, with the assistance of right-hand man Ed Beaumont [Alan Ladd], prove his innocence before he is sent down for murder?

One of the earliest collaboration between Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd, ‘THE GLASS KEY’ boasts a screenplay adapted from the novel by Dashiell Hammett [“The Maltese Falcon”], father of hard-boiled crime. Now appearing for the first time ever on this exclusive Blu-ray release in the United Kingdom, this timeless “film noir” thriller shines like never before.

FILM FACT: The “film noir” genre generally refers to mystery and crime dramas produced from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Movies of this genre were characteristically shot in black and white, and featured stories involving femme’s fatales, doomed heroes or anti-heroes, and tough, cynical detectives. The term “film noir” is the French for "black film" (literal) or "dark film" (closer meaning), first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, was unrecognized by most American film industry professionals of that era. Cinema historians and critics defined the category retrospectively. Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic films noir were referred to as "melodramas." Whether “film noir” qualifies as a distinct genre is a matter of ongoing debate among scholars.

Cast: Brian Donlevy, Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, Bonita Granville, Richard Denning, Joseph Calleia, William Bendix, Frances Gifford, Donald MacBride, Margaret Hayes, Moroni Olsen, Eddie Marr, Arthur Loft, George Meader, Brooks Benedict (uncredited), William 'Billy' Benedict (uncredited), Conrad Binyon (uncredited), Frank Bruno (uncredited), Kenneth Chryst (uncredited), Dane Clark (uncredited), Edmund Cobb (uncredited), Maurice Costello (uncredited), George Cowl (uncredited), John W. De Noria (uncredited), Vernon Dent (uncredited), Frank Elliott (uncredited), Tom Fadden (uncredited), Bess Flowers (uncredited), J.C. Fowler (uncredited), Jack Gardner (uncredited), Kit Guard (uncredited), Frank Hagney (uncredited), Chuck Hamilton (uncredited), Arthur Stuart Hull (uncredited), Joe King (uncredited), Paul Le Pere (uncredited), Theodore Lorch (uncredited), Jack Luden (uncredited), Wilbur Mack (uncredited), Joe McGuinn (uncredited), James Millican (uncredited), Bert Moorhouse (uncredited), Edmund Mortimer (uncredited), Jack Mulhall (uncredited), Spec O'Donnell (uncredited), Broderick O'Farrell (uncredited), Tom O'Grady (uncredited), Pat O'Malley (uncredited), Stanley Price (uncredited), Lillian Randolph (uncredited), Cyril Ring (uncredited), Francis Sayles (uncredited), Jack Shea (uncredited), Bruce Sidney (uncredited), Brick Sullivan (uncredited), Charles Sullivan (uncredited), George Turner (uncredited), Norma Varden (uncredited), William Wagner (uncredited) and Fred Walburn (uncredited)

Director: Stuart Heisler

Producers: Buddy G. DeSylva (uncredited) and Fred Kohlmar

Screenplay: Jonathan Latimer and Based on “The Glass Key” 1931 novel by Dashiell Hammett

Composer: Victor Young and Walter Scharf (uncredited)

Cinematography: Theodor Sparkuhl

Costume Design: Edith Head

Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo

Subtitles: English SDH

Running Time: 86 minutes

Region: Region B/2

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Universal Pictures / Arrow Academy

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: THE GLASS KEY [1942] we get to find crooked political boss Paul Madvig [Brian Donlevy] is determined to back reform candidate Ralph Henry [Moroni Olsen] for governor after falling in love with Ralph Henry's daughter, Janet Henry [Veronica Lake]. Paul Madvig's right-hand man, Ed Beaumont [Alan Ladd], believes the move is a big mistake and rightly distrusts Janet Henry's motives, as she is only playing along at her father's request; and she is put off by Paul Madvig's crudity and becomes very attracted to the more eclectic Ed Beaumont and fends off her advances out of strong loyalty to his friend. The deluded Paul Madvig boasts that Janet Henry has practically given him the key to his house; Ed Beaumont warns him that it is liable to be a glass key, one that can break at any moment.

When Paul Madvig tells gangster Nick Varna [Joseph Calleia] that he is cleaning up the city and that Nick Varna will no longer receive protection from the police, Ed Beaumont grows even more concerned. Complicating matters further, Janet Henry's ne'er-do-well son, Taylor Henry [Richard Denning], owes Nick Varna [Joseph Calleia] for gambling debts, while Paul Madvig's young sister, Opal Madvig [Bonita Granville], and is in love with Taylor Henry. When Paul Madvig finds out, Opal Madvig fears what he will do to her boyfriend.

Ed Beaumont later finds Taylor Henry's lifeless body in the street. Paul Madvig is the prime suspect, much to Nick Varna's delight. When Nick Varna hears that Ed Beaumont and Paul Madvig have split over the Taylor Henry mess, he also tries to recruit Ed Beaumont. Ed Beaumont turns him down, so Nick Varna has him brutally beaten repeatedly by sadistic henchman Jeff [William Bendix] to torture him into revealing details of corruption to the editor of the newspaper Nick Varna controls. Ed Beaumont contrives an escape and is hospitalised. When Ed Beaumont recovers, he learns that Nick Varna has found a "witness" to Taylor Henry's killing, a man named Henry Sloss [Dane Clark]. Paul Madvig has Henry Sloss brought to his office, but Henry Sloss is gunned down before he can talk. As a result, Paul Madvig is indicted for the murder and held in jail.

Ed Beaumont finds a somewhat drunk Jeff in a bar and tries to pump him for information in a back room. As they drink, Ed Beaumont toasts, "Here's looking at you." Just as Jeff starts to talk, Varna shows up and brusquely orders him to shut up. When Ed Beaumont disarms Nick Varna, a fed-up Jeff strangles his boss. After Jeff is finished, Ed Beaumont gets the waiter to call the police to arrest Jeff. Having finally guessed who killed Taylor Henry, Ed Beaumont persuades District Attorney Farr [Donald MacBride] to arrest Janet Henry. As Ed Beaumont had hoped, her father confesses he struggled with his son, causing Taylor Henry to fall and strike his head. Afterwards, Paul Madvig overhears Janet Henry tell Ed Beaumont that she loves him and that she knows he loves her and seeing that it is true. Paul Madvig gives the couple their blessing, but takes back the expensive ring.

As one of the 1940 memorable romantic duos, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake were both icy cool blondes, whose passive, almost emotionless acting styles were a perfect match to the other, but their good looks and on-screen chemistry sparked red hot hits at Paramount Pictures where both were under contract throughout the decade. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake would become iconic figures of the 1940's. Alan Ladd as a stone faced tough talker, Veronica Lake as the gal with the peek-a-boo hairstyle that wreaked havoc in war munition factories when girls who copied the look, got their long locks caught in factory machinery. ‘The Glass Key’ proved a success for Paramount Pictures and a launch pad for the two comely personalities who charged the film with their high voltage electricity. Unusual for the times, Dashiell Hammett frequently put gay characters in his stories. Examples are the sadistic Jeff in this “film noir” film and Joel Cairo [Peter Lorre], Wilmer [Elisha Cook], and Casper Gutman [Sidney Greenstreet] in the ‘The Maltese Falcon’ film.

Blu-ray Video Quality – Arrow Academy brings this Blu-ray disc with a 1080p encoded Black-and-White images, and is presented in the equally impressive 1.37:1 original aspect ratio, and the master was provided by the NBC Universal via Hollywood Classics organisation. Unfortunately in some scenes you get a slight pronounced grainy image with certain close ups, but overall it is a very impressive image resolution. But of course we have no idea what the state of the original negative stock was. But if you have a taste for the dark shadows of classic “film noir,” then this Arrow Academy Blu-Ray has all you desire and much more. Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – Arrow Academy brings this Blu-ray disc with a very nice 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio experience. All the dialogue is perfectly understandable and very clear. Particular attention has been paid to the sound effects of the violence and the glass breaking, all dramatic and very effective. Also very effective is film musical score by composer Victor Young and Walter Scharf (uncredited), which really highlights in making this “film noir” really stand out and adds to the atmosphere of this very suspenseful 1942 film.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

High Definition Blu-ray 1080p presentation.

Original uncompressed 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio.

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Special Feature: Comings & Goings [2016] [1080p] [1.37:1] [23:28] Here Arrow Films presents a specially recorded new visual appreciation essay on the film by Alastair Phillips, co-author of 100 Film Noirs, and explores ‘The Glass Key’ film’s recurring themes. Dashiell Hammett’s novel “The Glass Key” was published in 1931, and Paramount Pictures originally wanted to make an adaption immediately, but there was concerns about censorship that was likely to be imposed by the Hayes Office, and so the project was put on hold, and was eventually filmed in 1935, with the star George raft and became a massive Box Office success for the studio. The in 1941 another major film of ‘The Glass key’ was released and this time it starred Humphrey Bogart in another adaption, and was another big commercial success, and this lead to the studio to think again about making another remake of ‘The Glass Key’ and this time it starred Alan Ladd in the leading role, and of course Alan Ladd was already working for Paramount Pictures and was shooting the film ‘The Gun For Hire’ and subsequently made his name associated with the “film noir” genre. The film script for ‘The Glass Key’ was done by pulp novelist Jonathan Latimer and with the collaboration with director Stuart Heisler brought to the screen with a classic “film noir,” but most importantly is the history of “film noir” is the relationship between the films genre and the cinematography, especially with the German Cinematographer Theodor Sparkuhl, who is quite an interesting character, especially with the European migration to Hollywood, but before that Theodor Sparkuhl worked in great Britain, as well as collaborating in France with Jean Renoir films, and most importantly with the film ‘La Chienne’ [1931]. With the novelist Dashiell Hammett was a very movie like author, who possessed an ear for American speech, and a sense for a texture for American life and a sense of problems in American society and with also making a sense of problems with American life in general, and an insight into American idioms of modern life. Alastair Phillips sums up ‘The Glass Key’ film by saying, “That it is riven by lots of questions about sexual hidden meanings, sexual tension and especially gratuitous violence, and especially relationships between couples that demonstrate attentions between sexual desires and especially being in control and a very good example of this happens very earlier on in the film is the depiction of the original encounter between Veronica Lake and Brian Donlevy, especially when he has his face slapped and from then on wanting a relationship with Veronica Lake. Alastair Phillips also points out the importance of Alan Ladd and his constantly use of entering and leaving via doors, which also involves different characters throughout the film. But one thing that I found slightly frustrating, is that Alastair Phillips does tend to waffle on about things in general throughout the film that I found slightly boring, especially how things are related and also pointing things out that is basically “stating the obvious,” especially by keep going on about the doors and the windows that are related to the character of Alan Ladd. Despite Alastair Phillips keeps going on about certain scenes in the film and what each character is portrayed in the film, and as far as I am concerned is that about 15 minutes into the audio commentary is really only the interesting part of explaining about the merits of the film, after that he tends to pad things out a bit and so started to get slightly boring, as he did sort of keep on repeating himself with facts we already knew about what we were viewing with some of the shots from the film, but despite this, Alastair Phillips did sort of make an effort as such and so it is entirely up to you whether you will want to venture into this audio commentary, as I will only give it a five star rating.

Special Feature: Radio Dramatization [1946] [1080p] [1.37:1] [29:39] Here we are presented with a rare audio recording of the 26th November, 1946 half-hour radio dramatization adaptation of “The Glass Key” by The Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Hollywood Players, featuring the voices of Alan Ladd, Marjorie Reynolds and Ward Bond. Throughout the broadcast you just get a selection of Black-and-White and Colour stills from the film, as well as studio promotional stills, and it is also a very good audio recording. But what is totally hilarious and especially very camp, is a promotional advertisement by Lady Esther on the beauty product entitled “Lady Ester For Purpose Face Cream” at the end of the CBS radio broadcast, that sponsors of this radio broadcast.

Theatrical Trailer [1942] [480i] [1.37:1] [1:37] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘THE GLASS KEY.’ Despite image not being remastered with a 1080p encoded image, it is still a brilliant presentation.

Special Feature: Image Gallery [2016] [1080p] [1.37:1] Here you get to view a gallery of 11 Black-and-White and Colour vintage stills and promotional materials. To view each image, you have to press the right hand NEXT button to advance to view the other images.

Audio Commentary by crime fiction and film expert Barry Forshaw: here we are introduced to Barry Forshaw, who welcomes us to his audio commentary on the film ‘THE GLASS KEY,’ who also informs us that he is also the author on various crime fiction novels, as well as novels on British “film noir,” Nordic “film noir,” and currently working on the American “film noir.” The only slightly negative aspect of this audio commentary is that it sounds like he is recording it in a small cupboard and on top of all that, what is equally annoying is that he keeps banging the desk as well as knocking the microphone and personally I found it very off putting and I cannot understand the people at Arrow Academy gave an approval to the sound recording, as I feel it has not been done in a very professional way, as it is very off putting. Barry informs us that he is not going to give specific scene scenario, but more about the background to the film, he is also going to talk about the actors in the film, but first off Barry is going to talk about the novelist Dashiell Hammett and his pulp fiction novel “The Glass Key,” and Barry also thinks Dashiell Hammett is one of the greatest author of crime novels of hard boiled pulp fiction, but also says some people dispute this. Barry also warns us that he will from time to time mention spoilers throughout the film, and especially warns people if they have not already viewed the film. Barry also informs us that the film is an adaptation of the Dashiell Hammett novel, and people in the 21st century should appreciate the great importance that the pulp fiction novels had on the general public in the 20th century and the distain impact these novels had on its readers at the time, and that they have now been given much more respect to the modern audiences who now read pulp fiction, but despite this, Barry points out that there was also a great deal of bad pulp fiction novels being released throughout the 20th century. Barry also talks extensively about the novelist Dashiell Hammett, who sadly was an alcoholic; and had a string of love affairs with very significant woman, who also had very left wing sympathetic views, which were not fashionable at the time in America. Despite Dashiell Hammett’s pulp novel output, he actually only produced five novels altogether, which were published over a five year period, plus he also wrote a lot of short stories, but basically took the basic pulp fiction literature and transformed them into something of a literature genre. Barry also talks in-depth about all the other Dashiell Hammett’s novels he brought out, but informs us that after “The Glass key” novel was published, no more novels were forthcoming, as he got writers block and of course this blighted his life forever, which of course did not help, especially being an alcoholic, so just had to survive on the royalties of all the novels and other publications that were printed. Barry also comments on the fact about the novel “The Glass key” in that its central scenario is an insight into America’s dirty politics, which Dashiell Hammett thrived on, and sees the Alan Ladd character as a political fixer, as well as lots of male bonding, especially as seen in this film. Barry talks about the stars of the 1940s and they were the reason why people went to the cinema, especially in America, and still very much revered today, compared to the stars in the 21st century. Barry also comments about the director Stuart Heisler, who was not very well known in the 1940s and never really achieved the same fame as other directors of that period especially in Hollywood, especially like Howard Hawks and Don Spiegel for an example, despite Stuart Heisler being a very professional director, who sadly passed away in 1979 in San Diego. Barry goes into great praise of the actor Alan Ladd and how perfect he was for his role in “film noir” films, despite his short stature, which Barry compares to Tom Cruise, especially being roughly the same height, which Alan Ladd had comments about his height and for the film ‘THE GLASS KEY’ they were originally going to cast a taller actress, but instead they cast Veronica Lake, because it made Alan Ladd look slightly taller. Barry also comments that if Humphrey Bogart had been cast in the Alan Ladd part, we would of excepted that strange ambiguity attitude towards the physical toughness, the durability of the character, despite Alan Ladd keeps getting a beating, but of course manages to get his own back by the fact of using his brains than using his fists and that is why Alan Ladd was one of the 10 most popular actors in Great Britain in the 1940s and had a long and illustrious acting career. Barry also goes into great swooning over the actress Veronica Lake and especially about her famous peek-a-boo bang hairstyle, which of course at the time became a massive hot with woman wanting the same hairstyle, but it was short lived, as it was a very dangerous hairstyle, especially for women working with machinery which was made illegal, but on top of all that, Veronica Lake did not have such a long career like Alan Ladd, but despite this, Veronica Lake is still looked upon as a very popular actress. Brian now concentrates on the actor Brian Donlevy and how he first encountered this actor in the two Quatermass Hammer Horror films, who he felt by then was going past his sell by date, because at that time he was a very heavy drinker and wore a toupee (artificial hairpiece), which never sat on his head properly, because every time a strong wind blew up, the toupee would flap in the wind and he would then ruin the shot and had to start the camera again. But in the film ‘The Glass Key’ Brian Donlevy had a ritual before getting in front of the camera and it consisted of the following: insert dentures; don hair piece; strap on corset and lace up the elevator shoes, which of course the actor Alan Ladd had to wear also. But as we come to the end of this audio commentary, Barry finally talks about the character actor William Bendix and his hard man character he plays in the film, who he feels was the best villain in this film, and that Barry feels is the best reason for watching the ‘The Glass Key,’ which of course is Barry prerogative, whereas I am not going to comment, whereas it is entirely up to you to decide whether Barry is right, but in my opinion is that all the leading actors were all equally as good, which is why they helped to makes this a truly brilliant “film noir” and definitely not one to be missed.

PLUS: A stunning black-and-white designed 24 page booklet with in-depth analysis of the film with articles entitled “Breaking Glass: Deconstructing Dashiell Hammett’s pulp novel for the “film noir” cinema by Kat Ellinger.” “Dashiell Hammett: Progenitor of Pulp Fiction by Adrian Wootton.” Extensive vintage black-and-white photographs. Plus Cast and Crew Listings, About the Transfer, Production Credits and Special Thanks are included.

BONUS: Beautiful Designed Reversible Blu-ray sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tonči Zonjić [Croatian Comic Book Artist]. Tonči Zonjić started out as an illustrator at the age of 15 and got into comics by creating a fanzine called Pipci! [Tentacles!] in 2004. Tonči Zonjić first full finished book was an educational story about sea diving for kids that he coloured and lettered himself and still hasn't been published since its completion in 2006. In Croatia, Tonči Zonjić been working on several projects with “Darko Macan” as well as storyboards, advertisements, book covers, newspaper portraits and various other comic strips. Tonči Zonjić entered the American market in 2008 as one of the artists for Marvel's The Immortal Iron Fist series by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction.

Finally, ‘THE GLASS KEY’ is an unusual and intricately plotted crime drama. Veronica Lake is striking in the role of femme fatale and her onscreen chemistry with Alan Ladd is palpable. There’s so much going on in the background. It’s a fascinating murder mystery set to a background of political corruption, racketeering, and of course romance. ‘THE GLASS KEY’ is a superior crime drama with a great cast and clever direction. Overall ‘THE GLASS KEY’ gets a solid brilliant release from Arrow Academy. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso
United Kingdom
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