Monday, July 18, 2016

BLONDE ICE (1948)


Memo to idiots of the male sex: If your bride is making out with her ex-boyfriend a minute after you've exchanged "I do's", don't continue to Niagara like nothing happened. Otherwise, you'll wind up dead in your living room clutching a gun that's been wiped clean of prints and no powder burns on your hands. Thank Blonde Ice for that bit of advice.

"Darling! I was only whispering into
his mouth!"
Claire Cummings has barely gotten through the honeymoon phase of her honeymoon when her husband, Carl Hanneman, discovers her writing a love letter to her ex, newspaper reporter Les Burns. Faster than you can say "No-good dame," Carl returns to their home in San Francisco with the letter in his pocket and divorce on his mind.

If Les was smart, he'd drive straight into
a brick wall.
Eager to collect an inheritance, Claire pays a pilot $500 to fly her to Frisco on the qt, where she knocks off Carl and returns to the honeymoon bungalow in one night. When Claire later returns to Frisco for good, she sweet-talks Les Burns into picking her up at the airport with the ol' my-husband's-gone-to-work-in-New-York routine. 

They're greeted at home by hubby's corpse on the floor. In short order, the police suspect foul play, and zero in on Les at the culprit. He loved her, right? And hated Carl for marrying her, right? And Claire was 400 miles away the night of the murder, right? 

Al and Les exchange the fine art of the
stink-eye.
Just to make things more interesting, the oily Al Herrick, a newspaper colleague of Les', latches onto the same angle -- mainly because he was Claire's boyfriend back in the day, too. It's harder to figure out who has the worst taste in lovers, Claire or the blockheads who fall for her. (The only other things all her boyfriends have in common are thin mustaches and baritone voices brought about by a couple dozen Pall Malls a day.) James Griffith plays Al like a cross between Franklin Pangborn and Clifton Webb, only hetero, which is just as bizarre as it sounds.

Every 40s drama needed one scene
where one person looked away
from the other during a
conversation
Claire eventually racks up two more victims -- the pilot who flew her to Frisco to kill her husband, and her new fiancee, Congressman-elect Stanley Mason (which must make Blonde Ice the only bad-girl noir featuring an assassination). And in a thoughtful gesture, she tries to pin the latter on Les Burns. Only through the machinations of psychiatrist Dr. Kippinger does Claire finally break down and confess -- leading to yet another, climactic killing. Her trigger finger must have callouses.

For its meager pedigree, Blonde Ice is rich in b-movie dialogue, tossed about like a time-bomb with a short fuse. When Les discovers that Claire is engaged to Stan, he snorts, "Claire Cummings Hanneman Mason. If this keeps up, you won't be able to get your 
Make that two scenes.
initials on your silverware!" 

And a moment later, he gets another classic line when she tries wrapping him around her deadly little finger: "You're like a poison. Take a little bit and you're finished. But too much becomes an antidote." I hear ya, brother, I hear ya.


Only the shrink seems to be concerned that Claire
is making ready with the revolver. Maybe that's why
he's a shrink.
If Claire's character were a man, he'd be immediately pinned as a creepy villain whose sorry end can't come soon enough. However, as played by Leslie Brooks, she exudes a sick sexiness that make men deaf, blind, and stupid -- proof that women have it easier than men.

What was it about janes like these that made movies like Blonde Ice so popular? For male ticket-buyers, it was a safe way to witness revenge on every dame that did them dirt. For women, they got to live vicariously through a totally uninhibited character, while enjoying the anti-heroine's punishment as a salve to their own guilt.

But maybe Al Herrick puts it best: "I know that Claire Cummings is a nut if I ever saw one." Yeah, but you slept with her, pal.

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