Dir. Elia Kazan. USA. 1947.

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Masters of Cinema Series

Dana Andrews is one of the finest actors of his generation (T-Men is a particular unsung favourite of this writer) and he cuts a fine manly and brave figure in this feature brought to us by Eureka! The director, Elia Kazan would later make the more famous films On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire and the special features in this fine Masters of Cinema library addition have the great and goodly director walking us (literally) through the thoughts, feelings, life and inspirations surrounding his vision and output. The feature is available in the same purchase as DVD and Blue Ray.

It is described and sold as a noir, but fits better as a stolid crime drama come court room piece. Its notable first cousins would be 12 Angry Men, or Murder Inc, though the story and associated threads have been used in many a police drama from Marked Woman, the early Warner Bros. pre code flick with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, to Hill Street Blues and Prime Suspect. The drama of the story is given added weight and gravitas with the use of a voiceover acting as chorus and commentary on the proceedings. The other fantastic feature of the plot is the use of stakeholder perspective, with each viewpoint given a fair once over and the enveloping bias, corruption and relative vested interest in maintaining a perspective acutely felt by the viewer.

'There's one thing you can't beat in politics - and that is a completely honest man' is said at the end of the film but refers to the main protagonist and paragon of virtue State's Attorney Henry L. Harvey, played with gusto by Dana Andrews. A priest with a community presence and goodly reputation is gunned down in broad daylight in front of seven witnesses: the manhunt becomes a moral panic and the stages of hysteria are noted by the voiceover. 'We need a conviction' is the cry of the District Attorney and the wranglings between press/politicians/police are the stuff of Frank Furillo/Fletcher face offs down on the Hill Street Division. The nearer an election gets - the worse the behaviours as displayed by the local politicians. The priest in question was involved in community decisions about the distribution of land and its purchasing, more dangerous than he himself envisioned, but also a figure sufficiently loved to inspire massive rewards and hysterical vigilante behaviours.

This would include the methods used by the police to extract a confession from a man who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and here the film precedes 'In the Name of the Father' where the Birmingham Six and the recently deceased Gerry Conley were wrongly convicted for a bombing. The finest points are watching Henry Harvey unravel the witness statements to the point of the true perpetrator revealing them-selves at the courtroom grandstanding showdown. One pressman notes: 'it's always the same, if you look around hard enough - you'll always find some guy with his fingers in the till.' It has to be one of the most perfect examples of a court room finale ever made, (better by far than the ludicrous JFK.  Though claiming to be based on a true story, the state of Connecticut never got their man and the freed victim of police bullying was still the suspect to a lot of the citizens vying for blood and justice. Harvey went on to become Attorney General.

Boomerang is not a noir. It is excellent as a courtroom drama centrepiece with this particular DVD set having included a very watchable, (repeated viewings are recommended)special feature of, and starring Kazan who gives generously. It is massively insightful of the time 'method acting' was created and the preferred style of actors in stage and film performances - Elia's politics, life, marriages and works are freely discussed by this talented, deeply thoughtful and integrity ridden man whose works reflected someone who had at heart a fierce sense of responsibility towards the application of fairness and justice. It is of great interest to know that every studio in California turned down 'On the Waterfront' which is probably the most iconoclastic film ever on working class struggle making Brando into a household name.

Boomerang as a film and as DVD set as part of the Masters of Cinema series is a good value for money proposition and a must for the serious film buff.

Gail Spencer

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