"Black Angel" is an unjustly forgotten film noir based on Cornell Woolrich's novel. Dan Duryea, tagged in the preview as "he's no angel again!", adds yet another complex, dark portrayal to his gallery of ambiguous bad guys as Martin Blair, the estranged husband of murder victim Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling). Mavis is a devious singer who is blackmailing her married lover, Kirk Bennett (John Phillips). Her immaculately decorated apartment, haunting song "Heartbreak" playing in the background, her sheer black gown highlighting what a bad dame she is. Her blackmailer is shrewd, unscrupulous and will stop at nothing to get her way; Dowling's career never fully took off, most likely because of her unconventional screen presence and her independent mind (coincidentally, her sister, Doris Dowling, also appeared in a similar role in another noir of the same year, playing Alan Ladd's unfaithful lush wife in "The Blue Dahlia"). Since Mavis has made so many enemies for herself, it's not surprising that she ends up murdered. As he had the most apparent reason of anyone to want her dead, Bennett is arrested, charged and convicted (on rather circumstantial evidence) and sentenced to death. His loyal wife, Catherine (June Vincent, another under-appreciated talent), vows to clear her husband and enlists the help of Blair, who had passed out drunk after he last saw Mavis, and the pair team up to investigate nightclub owner Marko (Peter Lorre, exceptional performance), posing as a singing act. However, as with many film noirs, there are many red herrings, and things are not what they appear to be. The ending is a surprise and the killer's identity will keep you guessing to the film's conclusion.
I don't know why this movie is barely remembered. There should have been records of the haunting vocal music. June Vincent, the last surviving cast member (she passed away a few years back), retired from show business relatively early, and it's a shame that she did not progress to more roles like this in A pictures.
The DVD looks very good, although it shows faint signs of wear (which is to be expected for a film of its age), and the only extra included is the original theatrical trailer. Any fans of film noir should enjoy this one.