The Black Dahlia

Release Date: September 15, 2006
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Movie of the Day for Sunday, September 10, 2006
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At least I don't have to wait 40 days and 40 nights this time.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
37/52 Les Winan Promising but ultimately disappointing. Overly long and poorly edited, the movie steps on the all of the actor's performances.
43/68 Michael Bentley Some exciting and well-filmed moments, but nothing quite comes together in the end. Quite disappointing.
140/159 David Mumpower Unquestionably the most disappointing title of 2006, the tone here is all wrong and the plot twists are craptacular nonsense.
180/200 Max Braden The movie with the biggest disparity between trailer (great) and movie (lousy) this year.

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A country still recovering from World War II found the romantic notion of Hollywood irresistible. The LA studio system was the very embodiment of the American Dream. A talented person could go from being a nobody to the toast of the town in the span of a single successful movie.

Actors and actresses would arrive in droves of buses, their lone anticipation celebrity. Such behavior had a less reported downside. Only a handful of the fortunate ones achieved anything resembling their dreams. The rest were left to scramble for alternate lives.

One of those unlucky souls was Elizabeth Short. Before history came to know her as The Black Dahlia, she was an aspiring actress in search of fame. The way the woman arrived at her immortal celebrity was not the way her dreams played out. No one fantasizes about being tortured, killed and dismembered.

A massive police search was put in place to discover the perpetrator of this crime. An entire city was captivated by the morbid details of The Black Dahlia's death. The LA police force was under the microscope in solving this mystery more than they would be again for half a century. It would take a football icon driving a white Ford Bronco to recreate a similarly watched series of events for the overmanned thin blue line.

So complete was the failure of the police department that even today books are written claiming responsibility for the crime. More than one writer has professed to be the child of the killer and proceeded to describe the events surrounding the crime. The details of the murder have very much become LA's answer to Jack the Ripper.

Legendary author James Ellroy is a product of tragedy. His mother Jean was slain when he was only ten years old. That scarring experience impacted the scribe so much that the body of his work has focused on the grim subjects of murder and police corruption. It's easy to understand why he would be drawn to the story of The Black Dahlia.

Ellroy's 1987 novel on the subject was a precursor to another book whose movie adaptation you already know, LA Confidential. As with that movie, The Black Dahlia will explore the themes of police corruption and murder hidden just beneath the bright lights of Hollywood.

In this version, two ex-boxers played by Josh Hartnett and Mark Wahlberg have recently become police officers. The duo given the ill-fated assignment will attempt to discover the identity of the killer.

Over the course of their investigation, they will encounter a dead ringer for Elizabeth Short as played by Scarlett Johansson. If this sort of body double portrayal sounds familiar to you, it should. The idea was the loose inspiration for what would eventually become Kim Basinger's Academy Award-winning character in LA Confidential. As the two become combatants for the love of this doppleganger, they simultaneously discover corruption within the police force and grow suspicious of each other's motives.

Anyone who has seen LA Confidential or the more recent Dark Blue already knows what to expect from The Black Dahlia. The themes Ellroy explores in his novels are frequently intersecting, but somehow manage to maintain uniqueness. This particular project has been rumored for almost a decade now. With A-List stars like Hartnett, Wahlberg and Johansson on board and Brian De Palma of The Untouchables directing, this has all the earmarks of an Oscar contender as well as a blockbuster. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Black Dahlia
Main Cast Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank
Supporting Cast Aaron Eckhart
Director Brian De Palma
Screenwriter Josh Friedman
Distributor Universal
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site
Rating R
Screen Count 2,228
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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