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Devil In A Blue Dress - Devil In A Blue Dress(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2020]

Devil In A Blue Dress was one of the batch of neo-noir films that appear in the 1990s. The largely African American cast film blends mystery & intrigue, with touches of lo-key humour & some fairly tense gunplay/ fights- all with a fairly authentic LA in the late 40’s setting. Here from Powerhouse is a recent region B Blu Ray release of the film, taking in a new 2k print & a good enough selection of largely archive extras.

Devil In A Blue Dress appeared in 1995- it was directed by Carl Frankin, who is equally known as both a director & an actor- he had thirty-three director credits, and thirty-nine acting credits to his name. Devil In A Blue Dress was his second try at the neo-noir/crime thriller genre, as he helmed 1992’s One False Move- which was set in then present-day LA. 

The film is set in 1948 LA, and focuses in on Ezikeal "Easy" Rawlins (Denzel Washington), an African-American WW II veteran, who is desperately looking for work, as he several months behind on his mortgage payments. At his local bar, he meets a shifty & sweaty white man, DeWitt Albright(Tom Sizemore)- who is trying to track down a missing white woman who is believable to be hiding somewhere in LA's Black community. The woman, Daphne Monet- Flashdancers Jennifer Beals- is the ‘to be fiancée’ of a wealthy Todd Carter(Terry Kinney), who lined up to be the cites mayor.  So Easy sets out to visits the cities black underground clubs, Jazz bars, and interview their shifty clientele. And fairly soon he’s suspected of murder, berated by crooked cops, and tried to be manipulated by ruthless politicians.

Washington is good as the initially hard-working & honest Easy, who slowly but surely gets pulled deeper in LA’s shadier side. We get some nice supporting cast from the likes of Don Cheadle as the twitchy double gun tooting & gold teethed Mouse Alexander. And Lisa Nicole Carson as the tricky temptress Coretta James. The whole 1940’s LA look of the film is well realised, yet never overdone- as we move from smoke hazed clubs, onto minimal neon tipped & shadowy streets sailed by huge polished chrome  beasts. Onto sweaty bourbon flowing front rooms, drifting with cigarette haze. Along the way, we get nicely up-close & personal fights and gunplay moments. With the mystery & intrigue slowly but surely revealing it’s self. At just over the one hour & forty-minute mark, we do get a few moments of dragging/ overlong dialogue, but there is enough good acting & compelling storyline to keep you hooked in.

Moving onto this region B Blu Ray- and the 2k print is well defined & moody, nicely enhancing the 1940’s setting. We don’t have any new extras on the disc- though we do get some worthy archive stuff- this takes in: an audio commentary with director Carl Frankin from 1994, a 2018 on-screen twenty-minute interview with Frankin, fifteen-minute screen test with Don Cheadle with a Frankin intro from 1994, original trailer and image gallery. With the finished release there is a thirty-six-page booklet- this features a new essay by Keith M Harris, an archival interview with Carl Franklin from Positif magazine, an extract from Walter Mosley’s novel the film was based on, and an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits.


If you enjoy more recent/modern takes on noir with a classic period setting, then I’d say you’ll enjoy what Devil In A Blue Dress has to offer- and once again a nice print/ presentation from Powerhouse.

Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5

Roger Batty
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