BOOMERANG! is an excellent early example of the "procedural" or "documentary" style of film noir. Released in 1947, BOOMERANG! predates the somewhat similarly themed CALL NORTHSIDE 777 by a year. The director of BOOMERANG!, Elia Kazan, also helmed 1950's PANIC IN THE STREETS, another film in the genre. All three of these movies employed extensive location shooting and a close-up look at an investigation; to varying degrees, they used non-actors in the cast. Two of the three films mentioned here were based on true stories.
In BOOMERANG! Dana Andrews plays Henry Harvey, a State's Attorney under enormous political pressure to prosecute a suspect in the murder of a kindly Episcopal priest in a Connecticut town. The only problem is that the more Harvey looks at the evidence, the less convinced he is of the suspect's guilt. Harvey adheres to a prosecutor's ethical code of conduct, requiring that he seek justice rather than a conviction, and presents his doubts about the evidence at a preliminary hearing.
BOOMERANG! is based on an actual murder which took place in Bridgeport, Connecticut; as the city was not happy to cooperate in putting the story on film, the movie was filmed on location in Stamford, Connecticut. Henry Harvey was inspired by Homer Cummings, who after a similar case went on to become United States Attorney General.
The cast of BOOMERANG! is superb. Dana Andrews, one of my favorite actors, is excellent as Attorney Harvey. Lee J. Cobb plays the police chief, who is similarly pressured to quickly find and prosecute a murder suspect. Jane Wyatt is Harvey's supportive wife, Arthur Kennedy plays the murder suspect, and a young Karl Malden is a police detective. The top-notch cast is rounded out by Sam Levene, Ed Begley, and Cara Williams. A fun piece of casting trivia is that the playwright Arthur Miller is one of the suspects in a police lineup.
BOOMERANG! was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. (The winner was MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET.) Elia Kazan was awarded Best Director by the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle in recognition of both BOOMERANG! and GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT; Kazan won the Oscar as Best Director that year for GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT.
The movie runs 88 minutes and was filmed in black and white.
BOOMERANG! was produced on DVD as Fox Film Noir No. 16. However, just before the DVD was to be released it was recalled, apparently due to copyright issues. Film noir expert Eddie Muller recently wrote in the Noir City Sentinel newsletter "From what I've heard, BOOMERANG is dead in the water. Those who got a copy before the recall have collector's items."
Some copies did indeed make it into the marketplace, despite the recall, and can still be purchased from Amazon vendors or on eBay. I was fortunate to be able to view the DVD. The print is beautiful, and extras include a commentary by film noir scholars Alain Silver and James Ursini. I hope the copyright issues are somehow resolved so that this DVD can one day be more widely available, as it deserves.
Glenn Erickson reviews both the film and the DVD at DVD Savant.
This movie has also been released on VHS.
It may be of interest that references vary as to whether an exclamation mark should be used in the film title. I followed the style of the film's actual opening credits, which include the exclamation mark. Curiously, the film's advertising poster, seen here, does not use it, nor does the DVD cover -- although the DVD's main menu does.
Update: Many thanks to J.C. Loophole of The Shelf for letting us know in the comments that the DVD can also be seen via Netflix. Coincidentally he just received it from Netflix in today's mail!
October 2008 Update: BOOMERANG has now finally had its official DVD release in the Fox Film Noir series.