Released By: Kino Lorber
November 15, 2016
Dana Andrews, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, Jane Wyatt, Ed Begley
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No matter what your opinion of Elia Kazan, there can be no doubt that the man has been responsible for some masterful works of art in cinema. Boomerang, an early film in the Kazan portfolio, bases itself on a Reader's Digest article about the murder of a church Minister, and presents itself in the form of a "Docu-Noir"; a mix of the popular Film Noir genre of the times, with a matter-of-fact voice-over that conveys the idea that this is true crime; likely influenced by the involvement of documentary producer Louis de Rochemont.
With a title card that may as well read, "The names have been changed to protect the innocent", Boomerang opens on the actual (not actual) scene of the crime, a bustling small town city centre somewhere in Connecticut, where the sun shines and people happily go about their business. But when the night falls, this innocent town becomes draped in shadows and sinister activities; as the elderly Father Lambert stops beneath a street light, a .32 caliber revolver sneaks into the frame, and a shot rings out. In the presence of multiple witnesses, a shadowy figure flees the scene, leaving the corpse of the church man to grow cold on the asphalt.
Public demand for a culprit is instantaneous, and when the police, including Chief "Robbie" Robinson (Lee J. Cobb) come up cold for two straight weeks, the outcry is overwhelming. Adding to the pressure to name a suspect are two warring political factions downtown, each hoping for a different outcome, and a daily lambasting from reporters at The Morning Record. As tensions mount, just about everyone in town guilty of wearing a coat and a fedora gets hauled in to stand in a lineup before the witnesses, only to be released again.
Finally, a break comes in the case when ex-Army vet drifter John Waldron is picked up in Ohio, allegedly from Connecticut; not only does Waldron fit the profile of the suspect, he's also caught with an Army-tint .32 caliber revolver. Waldron doesn't seem a likely suspect, but a combination of a jilted ex-lover placing him at the scene of the crime, and 48 consecutive hours of being grilled by the police makes him a good scapegoat for the State. But when State's Attorney Henry L. Harvey (Dana Andrews) examines the evidence for the prosecution, something doesn't seem right. Torn between serving justice, and serving the political higher-ups that can make or break his career isn't a thrilling choice to have to make, as Harvey becomes embroiled in the backroom deals, blackmail, and extortion that has kept the top dogs in business in this seemingly innocent piece of America.
It certainly sounds compelling, and at the outset, Boomerang seems to be a worthwhile entry into the sorta-noir genre. The aesthetic is correct, Kazan's placement of the acting talent and the camera pulls off small-town Connecticut as noir as noir should be, and a brutal murder with a shadowy, fleeing suspect is just what the doctor ordered. Lee J. Cobb situates himself perfectly into this mix as only he can, but outside of an outstanding interrogation scene, fades into the background to reappear only briefly, and a variety of fitting supporting characters...men fiendishly dragging on cigarettes next to gas pumps, and real glass water cooler bottles...firm up the illusion, while the introduction of Dana Andrews and his pinstriped suit, surrounded by corrupt politicians, seals the deal.
It's after the apprehension of the suspect, though, that Boomerang slides downhill, not right to the bottom, but about halfway into the middle of mediocrity. A fantastic startup leads to a courtroom spectacle that fails to deliver on earlier excitement. A bevvy of close-up shots of Henry L. Harvey passionately addressing each item of evidence in front of the judge appears to have a series of "Eureka!" moments as its intent, but instead comes off as a long-winded bunch of unremarkable improbabilities, stacked on top of each other to hammer home some kind of profound statement on what true justice entails. The narrative at this point becomes grating and pedantic, which remains straight through the Golly-Gee conclusion and into the end credits.
Kino brings Boomerang to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.33:1 transfer that varies from good to acceptable, leaning mostly toward the former. Blacks are solid during much of the running time, and detail is strong with healthy grain, while at other times, the picture appears to be slightly washed out and lacking in depth. Night scenes are sometimes overwhelmed by shadows...and not in your typical noirish way...but expect a relatively decent transfer for the most part. Debris and damage does make an appearance on occasion, but doesn't detract from the viewing experience.
The audio is carried via DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 track, and it's an adequate excursion. Though it lacks dynamic range, dialogue is largely clear and coherent, balanced with the score and minimal sound effects. Occasional hiss does pop up, but isn't overwhelming. All in all, it's acceptable for what is essentially a dialogue-driven film.
No Subtitles are provided.
First up in the extras is a commentary with "Film Noir Historian" Imogen Sara Smith. Smith has a whole lot to say during this commentary, and though she does come off as rather scholarly and dry, she does cover a lot of information, starting with the untruths found in the post-credit title card, and moving onto the locations used in the film, Kazan's favoured use of non-actors, the portrayal of the police in Boomerang vs. other noir films, and a career history of some of the acting talent, including Cobb and Karl Malden.
A second commentary, courtesy of "Film Historians" Alain Silver and James Ursini covers a lot of the same material found in Smith's commentary, and also gets into the shooting style that Kazan employed, the influence of Producer Louis de Rochemont, and the politics of the film. Also a fairly informative commentary, the two participants make sure that dead air time is minimal.
Six Trailers for Kino titles are also available; Boomerang, I Wake Up Screaming, 99 River Street, Cry of the City, Shield For Murder, and Daisy Kenyon.
The Final Word:
Elia Kazan is responsible for some classic, timeless films, but Boomerang barely qualifies as mediocre. For fans of the film, the Kino blu-ray offers acceptable audio and visual quality with some solid commentary tracks.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!
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