Saturday, September 09, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Black Hand (1950) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Gene Kelly stars in BLACK HAND (1950), an MGM crime drama available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Over the course of his long career as an MGM musical star, Kelly also starred in a handful of straight dramatic roles. I've previously reviewed the WWII film PILOT #5 (1943), in which he played an Italian-American pilot in the South Pacific; over a decade later he played a Navy scientist in another WWII film, CREST OF THE WAVE (1954).

BLACK HAND is quite different in flavor from those war-themed films; it's a period drama set in early 20th century New York. Kelly plays Johnny Columbo, an Italian-American who was a teenager (played by Raymond Malkin) when his attorney father (Peter Brocco) was murdered by the Italian Mafia, aka the Black Hand.

After returning to Italy for some years with his mother (Eleonora Mendelssohn), Johnny returns to New York, ready for vengeance. He is reunited with a former school friend, Isabella (Teresa Celli), whose family was murdered by the Black Hand; Johnny, Isabella, and Detective Lorelli (J. Carrol Naish) try to unite scared business owners against the mob while also searching for evidence to put members of the Black Hand in jail.

This 92-minute film isn't anything especially noteworthy, but it's a serviceable middle-of-the-road crime film which holds viewer attention. Kelly is onscreen in a majority of the scenes, and he's sympathetic and likeable in a fairly low-key performance. I've been trying to finally catch up with Kelly's MGM dramas, and I found it to be a worthwhile film.

Celli was in seven films at MGM between 1949-51; I've seen most of them and believe BLACK HAND was her biggest role. She's acceptable if unmemorable. Perhaps due in part to her dowdy black wardrobe, she looks considerably older than her actual age of 25.

The supporting cast includes Marc Lawrence, Barry Kelley, and Carl Milletaire. Keep a sharp eye out for the bus boy Naish talks to in the restaurant in Naples; it's a teenaged Robert "Bobby" Blake.

BLACK HAND was directed by Richard Thorpe and filmed in black and white by Paul C. Vogel. Fans of MGM films will recognize a couple of exterior sets which were used in numerous MGM films.

The Warner Archive DVD is a nice quality print with good sound. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Patrick said...

Might have take Black Hand for a whirl myself.....the cheetah has never seen a Gene Kelly film.


10:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Let me know what you think if you check it out, Patrick!

Best wishes,

10:30 AM  

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