Monday, September 10, 2012


This British thriller with a distinct noir feel has a reputation as a "bad" movie, but aside from the atrocious American accents from the mostly Brit cast, I quite enjoyed it. Miss Blandish is a lovely young Manhattan heiress who is set to marry a man she's not in love with, and she keeps getting orchids delivered with accompanying cards imprinted with black dice which implore her not to marry. She sends the orchids back (hence the title) but they keep coming. One night, when Blandish and fiancĂ© duck out of a fancy party to be alone at a roadhouse, some small-time thugs follow and hold them up for her jewels. The drunken fiancĂ© tries to stop them and is shot dead; one of the thugs punches Blandish out cold and they kidnap her, planning on splitting the diamonds and a big ransom. Their plans are thwarted when Slim Grisson, owner of a fancy nightclub and head of a notorious crime gang, finds out what's going on—he’s the one who's been sending Blandish the orchids, a pair of black dice being his club's logo. He gets rid of most of the thugs and makes his gang think he's taking control of the kidnapping, but as he's in love with her, he actually sets her free. Then she finds herself falling for him—he’s shady and tough, and symbolizes everything she's been forbidden to experience—so she stays, which causes problems with his gang (the nominal head of which is his somewhat grotesque mother, who becomes jealous of Blandish). Into this stew comes a reporter digging into the case, who is not afraid to use a gun in his journalistic exploits. 

There are problems here aside from the accents. One is that there is no real moral center, no one with whom the audience can fully identify. Jack LaRue, as Grisson, is a dapper tough guy who owns a club with a gambling room, making Humphrey Bogart in CASABLANCA the primary reference point for the character, though LaRue also has a tic involving the constant rolling of dice, which conjures up George Raft. But LaRue, though OK in the role, is no Bogart, and there’s no real chemistry between him and Linden Travers (both pictured above), who plays Miss Blandish—who for her part is attractive but no Ingrid Bergman. LaRue does a nice job of often seeming dumbstruck by his feelings. The film is notable for its violence; not only do lots of people get killed, but almost everybody either slaps someone or gets slapped, even the women. There are a couple of nightclub songs and one moderately amusing bit in which a comedian does an imitation of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. A number of supporting players do nice jobs, including Walter Crisham as a mob enforcer, Richard Nelson as the thug who mandhandles Miss Blandish, and Charles Goldner as a snarky waiter. Many people wind up dead by the end, and the bleak (but absolutely correct) conclusion is right out of film noir. There is not a lot of humor, but my favorite exchange is the following: "Do you believe in fairy stories?" "That depends on the fairy." [TCM]

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