Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Take - The Black Dahlia

My Take on the Movies
A Mini-Review of
By: A. L. “Toni” Anderson

Elizabeth “Betty” Short was an aspiring actress who met a horribly violent death in Hollywood, California before her 23rd birthday. The 2006 film crime drama, The Black Dahlia, is inspired by her true story, and is based on a novel by James Ellroy, author of L. A. Confidential. The screenplay is written by Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds - 2005). The film is directed by Brian De Palma (Carlito’s Way -1993).

Aaron Eckhart (Paycheck - 2003) is Los Angeles Police Sgt. Lee “Fire” Blanchard. Josh Hartnett (Lucky Number S7evin - 2006) is Officer Dwight “Ice” Bleichert. Partners on the LAPD, they are both former semi-professional pugilists, opposites in nearly every possible way. They are united, however, in the search for the killer of the Black Dahlia, and in their devotion to Kathryn Lake, portrayed in the film by Scarlett Johansson (Just Cause - 1995). Though Fire and Ice appear to be inseparable, Kate is “never between, but always in the middle” of a delicate triangle in this version of the real life crime.

The Black Dahlia (who is seen prior to her death in screen test footage), is portrayed by Mia Kirshner (“24”). In the film, the Dahlia led a troubled and controversial existence, marked by scandal prior to her gruesome murder and dismemberment. It is speculated that she was a prostitute, and possibly a lesbian. One of the women with whom she allegedly had a sexual relationship is Madeleine Linscott, played by Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby - 2004), the daughter of a rich, crooked developer, a “Dahlia look-a-like,” and a potential murder suspect.

Although the story is based on a 1947 unsolved grisly murder, the film itself is a mish-mash of hard core criminals and out-of-control cops. Often it is difficult to tell the two apart. Much of the film is totally incomprehensible. The somewhat twisted plot is advanced (and supposedly relevant information is imparted) through increasingly gory newspaper headlines.

The film is more than an investigation into the most sensational murder mystery in Hollywood history. It dances around allegations of police corruption, all manner of depravity and deception, alcoholism and obsession, and psyches bordering on insanity. For author James Ellroy, the novel is a compilation of research into the Dahlia case and the actual murder of his own mother in 1958. The film adds theatrical elements of its own.

Although the film is rather shocking, it is not quite up to the standards of a real murder mystery—not even the one upon which it is based. If you are so inclined, I suggest you look into the real Dahlia murder. In this case, fact is more exciting than fiction. [2:01]

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[© 09/16/2006]


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