A couple of days ago after I posted the cover of the first issue of DAN TURNER, PRIVATE DETECTIVE, a friend of mine asked if I’d ever seen BLACKMAIL, the 1947 movie that’s based on one of Robert Leslie Bellem’s Dan Turner stories. I thought that I had, a long time ago, but since the movie is available to watch on YouTube, I figured I’d check it out again. As it turns out, I don’t believe I’d ever seen this until now. At least, I have no memory of it if I did.
Willliam Marshall, an actor who had a relatively short and undistinguished career, plays Dan Turner and does a pretty good job. He looks kind of like I’ve always imagined Dan looking, and he holds his own quite well in the frequent and lengthy fistfights. Ricardo Cortez, probably the biggest name in the cast, plays a rich radio executive who’s being blackmailed and hires Dan to take care of it. In short order (everything in a movie that’s only a few minutes more than an hour long happens pretty quickly), there’s a dead guy in Cortez’s pool and Dan is running around trying to find out who bumped off the stiff. The plot’s complicated and never really amounts to much more than a framework to hang wisecracks and fights on, but director Lesley Selander (who I know from Westerns he directed) keeps things moving along nicely, and the cast also includes old pros Grant Withers as Dan’s police detective pal and perennial bad guy Roy Barcroft (also better remembered for Westerns).
BLACKMAIL isn’t a great movie. It tones down Bellem’s wonderful patter a little too much, and there are changes that serve no purpose that I can see, like making Dan be from New York and centering the plot around radio drama rather than the film industry. It just doesn’t seem like a Dan Turner story without the galloping snapshots. But for a low-budget, hardboiled mystery yarn, I enjoyed it quite a bit, enough that I think it’s a shame it wasn’t the first of a series. If there had been more Dan Turner movies, I certainly would have watched them. Ka-chow!