The Film (4.5/5)
Everything seems well in a peaceful town in Connecticut, when suddenly the whole town is thrown on its ear, when their priest is murdered in cold blood. The shooting takes place in the middle of the down town area with many witnesses, but because of how dark it was no one can identify the suspect. Head police officer Chief Robinson (Lee J. Cobb) and State’s Attorney Harvey (Dana Andrews) are both stuck trying to find the criminal. As the state panics, the search becomes an almost witch hunt, as every man in a dark suit and light hat is brought to the police station.
Finally, a man named John Waldron (Arthur Kennedy) is brought in and the witnesses agree he is the murderer. But Harvey starts to doubt if he is their man or just a scapegoat out of the town’s desperation. As Harvey searches for the truth, he may uncover some dirty little secrets of this “Peaceful little town”.
BOOMERANG (1947, not to be confused with the Eddie Murphy movie.) Is an unusual, and still deeply satisfying Film Noir. Instead of the gangster or detective movie, BOOMERANG is a ripped from the headlines story that was inspired by a real-life murder case and a Reader’s Digest article. The voice over narration informs us that this is real and that only the names have been changed, which places this movie as part of the inspiration for future cop Television series. The production also went as far as filming on the locations as the real crime. But that’s not even the most subversive element of the movie.
Something I picked up on was the two-faced nature of the movie. With the narration and many shots of the simple and good folks of the town, who want justice be served, it seemed like American propaganda. But as the movie unfolds it becomes clear what a lie this window dressing is. Elia Kazan is one of the most important filmmakers of the 1950’s, and has directed some all-time classics like ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) and A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951). So, it comes as no surprise that Kazan, a man who shows the ugly truth of people and harsh reality would in turn show the darker under belly of this murder case. The Witnesses seem strictly influenced by award money, the cops quickly pick a nobody simply to be done with there over worked stress, and the politics going on are more about winning future elections then actual justice. Also in a clever throwaway bit, as a pacer by remarks on how it seems only people in bars and pool halls are questioned and the idea of a rich man doing the crime is unheard of.
BOOMERANG is a first-class production in many ways. The cinematography by Nobert Brodie is moody and grim, and his court room scenes are still over lit but full of menace. The score by David Buttolph is a great piece of music, with an it can happen to you kind of feel. And we can’t forget the cast. Dana Andrews (WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS) gives an air of authority while still being a troubled every man. His performance in the court room scenes show him at the top of his game, and give Perry Mason a run for his money. Lee J. Cobb (THE EXORCIST) could play this type of cop role in his sleep, but it’s still nice to see him turn in a wonderful performance. Ed Begley (SORRY WRONG NUMBER) turns in a solid role as the greedy land owner, and Karl Malden (THE CAT O NINE TAILS, I CONFESS) shows up in an early role. In an odd piece of thanks famous playwright Arthur Miller shows up in a quick cameo.
BOOMERANG comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. The sound mix has a few hiccups. The voice over narration varies in quality and at it’s worse sounds like it was recorded in a wind tunnel. The rest of the track is clear and detailed, showcasing the “real in the streets feel”, and the background noise of a crowded court room. There’s no subtitles included.
The 1080p HD transfer is solid but first lets the bad out of the way. A few moments during the court room scenes, the picture starts to show some heavy digital noise and has a glowing blur effect. The other big issue is the fuzzy almost unfocused look of the movie during the opening credits, where the introduction text is too blurry to read. The black levels are mostly consistent with some minor over lit grays. The picture itself is very clear and full of life. The noir lighting is used to good effect and even the minor scenes are impressive to look at.
Kino Lorber has went the extra mile to give BOOMERANG some neat bonus features. There’s two audio commentaries. The first is with Film Noir Historian Imogen Sara Smith. Smith keeps the track going along at a fast pace and covers a wide range of topics on the movie and the film noir genre in general. The second commentary is with film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini. This track is slower and has bigger pockets of dead air. The two men are a little drier but still deliver a solid track with plenty of insight into the film. Also included is a trailer gallery that features: BOOMERANG, I WAKE UP SCREAMING, 99 RIVER STREET, CRY OF THE CITY, SHIELD FOR MURDER, and DAISY KENYON.
BOOMERANG is a fantastic Film Noir crime movie, with a great set of performances. The darker under belly of the town gives the movie an extra edge, and it’s more than rewatchable. For Film Noir fans this is a must see. Highly Recommended.