Friday, September 15, 2006

Beth Short On The Silver Screen

Los Angeles, CA

The Black Dahlia opens today in theatres all over the place. Brian DePalma brings James Ellroy's novel about the infamous 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short to life.

I have hopes and trepidation about this one. The Black Dahlia was the first Ellroy novel I ever read. That was years ago and I didn't know who the hell Ellroy was. That said, I thought the book plodded along a bit. L.A. Confidential, I feel, is a much better book.

What I did like about it is that the story is less about the murdered girl and more about the obsessive detectives on the case, their own personal lives and how the murder sets off a series of events that really fuck them up.

Here's a spoiler: They don't solve it.

Sorry, no Scooby-Doo moments in this one. This is about as noir as you get.

Kind of like Titanic, ("Whatta ya mean, the boat sinks!?"), the public details of the Dahlia's murder are well known, so no surprises there. The killer's identity remains a mystery, and the novel doesn't really try to dig that one up. It's really not about Elizabeth Short. It's about the impact of her death on the men and women surrounding her.

I have a lot of respect for some of DePalma's work. I loved Body Double, for example. But I always got the sense that he was trying to be some bastard amalgam of Kubrick and Hitchcock. I'm worried that he's going to screw this one up, and it really deserves to be a great film. I'm not expecting it to be true to the story, hell, L.A. Confidential didn't come close, but I hope that it will at least maintain the things that make it a great story.


Graham said...

I thought they did solve it in the book. But I probably read it 15 years ago, and I'm getting up in years, so you never know.

I'm not sure anyone is ever prepared for their first Ellroy. I was reading Rex Stout and Raymond Chandler before I read Dahlia. It was a bit of a surprise.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

I think you're right, Graham. It's been so long since I read the book, I'd forgotten.

"I'm not sure anyone is ever prepared for their first Ellroy." That sounds so obscene.