Monday, December 5, 2011

Will the black-gloved killer face the music?

The Black Glove (aka "Face the Music") (1954)
Starring: Alex Nicol, Eleanor Summerfield, John Salew, Ann Hanslip, and Paul Carpenter
Director: Terence Fisher
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

An American band leader on a European tour (Nicol) becomes a murder suspect after he is the last known person to see a murder victim (Hanslip) alive. Using a mysterious bootleg recording as his only clue, he sets out to find the murderer.

While spooky black-gloved hands in movies have become associated mostly with Italian murder mysteries, they were presaging villainy and mayhem in films from all nations as early as the 1920s. The association with Italians come to a large degree from their persistent overuse by Dario Argento, but they are on display here both in the American market title and during the murder sequences in a British film.

Although, from a story perspective, the film isn't unlike something that might have been created by Argento, as its full of characters behaving oddly and downright stupidly because the plot dictates it. And the plot is loose to say the least, held together mostly by coincidences.

However, unlike the Argento films that post-date this one by more than a decade, this film is blessed by the superior direction of Terence Fisher. Once again, Fisher takes a modest creation and deploys all its parts in a manner so efficient that he so smooths over all the weaknesses so as to make them almost irrelevant.

Between eliciting a strong performance from lead Alex Nicol and the way he makes sure that the film keeps moving at a lightning-fast clip, you hardly have time to notice the film's shortcomings. Heck, Fisher keeps it moving so fast that even the musical numbers, which in many similar films bring things to a stand-still instead of driving them forward.

"The Black Glove" is another one of the nearly forgotten couple dozen black-and-white crime dramas that Hammer Films produced during the 1950s and 1960s in collaboration with American production companies, first with independent producer Robert Lippert and later Columbia Pictures. Like almost every film Fisher helmed, it is well worth a look.

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