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The Black Dahlia (Mill Creek Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Black Dahlia (Mill Creek Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainments
    Released on: July 12th, 2022.
    Director: Brian De Palma
    Cast: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank
    Year: 2006
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Black Dahlia – Movie Review:

    Brian De Palma’s 2006 film, The Black Dahlia, takes place in 1946 where Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), both former boxers, are now employed by the Los Angeles Police Department. After competing against one another in a boxing match as a publicity gimmick for the department, the two are partnered up as homicide detectives and it isn’t long before Lee introduces Bucky to his lovely girlfriend, Katherine "Kay" Lake (Scarlett Johansson). The three become fast friends and soon enough, Kay attempts to seduce Bucky behind Lee’s back. It doesn’t work, but it’s here that Bucky learns that Kay his literally been branded with the letter ‘BD’ which he realizes are the initials of a mobster named Bobby DeWitt, the same Bobby DeWitt that Lee helped put behind bars not all that long ago.

    In early 1947, a woman named Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner) is found dead, her body dismembered. Dubbed 'The Black Dahlia' but the Los Angeles press, Bucky and Lee start working the case, quickly becoming obsessed with solving Short's murder. Bucky uncovers some seedy elements of Short's past, learning that she was to appear in a XXX movie and that she was a regular at a lesbian nightclub, the same nightclub frequented by an affluent woman named Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank), who was very close with the victim.

    As the investigation continues, Lee starts to become abusive with Kay and argumentative with Bucky. From there, the plot thickens, as Lee's past with DeWitt comes back to haunt him and Bucky's relationship with Madeleine, who is a dead ringer for The Black Dahlia, intensifies.

    Based on the real life case of The Black Dahlia Murder, De Palma’s film ,which was shot using a screenplay from Josh Friedman based on the 1987 novel by James Ellroy, is nothing if not atmospheric. It’s a beautifully shot film, the cinematography from the uber-talented Vilmos Zsigmond is top notch and the production values, overall, are fantastic. Mark Isham’s score is also very good, adding to the mood and atmosphere that are obviously key to the film’s appeal in a very big way.

    It’s a shame then that the performances are as uneven as they are. Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank are both as sultry and sexy as they need to be to make their characters work, and their acting is pretty solid here as well. They play noir archetypes to fairly clichéd perfection and they look great doing it. Hartnett, however, is a weak link and not the best casting choice for one of the leads, as his performance comes across as awkward. Aaron Eckhart is a bit better but neither of the male leads in the film rise to the level that the two female leads do, and the film suffers for it. There are some interesting supporting players here. Mia Kirshner works well in her part, and it's fun to see James Otis, Rose McGowan and William Finley show up in the movie. De Palma himself appears in the movie in an amusing cameo and look for none other than Lady K.D. Lang as the singer in one of the scenes that takes place in the lesbian bar.

    The ending of the movie also feels unusually abrupt to the point where it comes across as rushed. The build up to this is well-done, with De Palma clearly having a blast indulging his penchant for excess, but the rushed finale doesn’t quite bring things home the way it should, making this an interesting exercise in style over substance.

    The Black Dahlia – Blu-ray Review:

    Mill Creek provides The Black Dahlia with a very nice 2.35.1 widescreen transfer, offered up in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, that does justice to the very dark colors and classy, lush cinematography used throughout the film and using up just over 22GBs of space on the 25GB disc. The image is always spotless and mpeg compression is thankfully quite minor, though artifacts do pop up from time to time. All in all, it looks good, which nice detail and good depth to the image.

    The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track in the films’ original English language. In the film’s more active sequences directional effects whiz past you from all channels, and in the quieter, more dramatic moments, we get crisp, clean dialogue. Bass response is very strong and there is very good depth to the score used in the movie. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only.

    There are no extra features included on the disc at all, outside of a trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    The Black Dahlia - The Final Word:
    Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia, his love letter to classic film noir, builds nicely but rushes its conclusion to the point where the ending’s abruptness hurts things. Still, the performances from the two female leads are good and the attention to period detail and impressive production values make this worth seeing, even if it is more than a little flawed. Mill Creek’s Blu-ray release is devoid of extras but it looks decent, features a strong lossless audio track and is available at a very fair price.


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