Hammer, meet Amicus. Amicus, meet Hammer…
Hammer and Amicus films might seem like they’re mostly pulpy horror movies, but they managed to work in quite a variety of subjects. Naturally, there has to be blood somewhere, and in the case of 1954’s The Black Glove, the blood belongs to a doomed blues singer named Maxine.
American James Bradley (Alex Nichol) or “Brad,” is fresh off the plane to England for his band’s European tour and he’s tired. He hasn’t slept in three days. James begs off of a party his manager, Maxie (John Salew) has lined up for him because he wants to eat and go to bed.
As Brad’s taxi drives across London, the driver just happens to turn on a side street, where Brad is drawn in by Maxine Halbard (Ann Hanslip) practicing with her band in a basement club. Brad is so taken he pulls out his trumpet and slides all over the melody of the song she’s singing.
Like a gentleman, Brad sees Maxine home, where she fixes them a spaghetti dinner and they have a nice chummy time before Brad goes home to sleep. Presumably, he’s so tired he leaves his trumpet in Maxine’s apartment by mistake.
Brad wakes up to find Detective Sergeant MacKenzie (Fred Johnson) staring at him. Maxine was murdered and he’s the prime suspect since he saw her last. He’s told not to go too far because the police will be calling him.
There’s a funny thing about music people, though: They tend to be really good at networking. Between replacing his trumpet, which the police are holding as evidence and dodging punches from jealous wannabe boyfriends, Brad starts asking questions of all the musicians in town. He’s well-acquainted with who’s done what on all the latest records and who’s jealous of who. And he comes by a stack of photos that are very…illuminating.
Brad will somehow corral all of the relevant people in his dressing room after being poisoned (yeah, the movie goes there) to present his findings and watch everyone squirm. Meanwhile, his band waits to go on and the less-prestigious opening acts are running out of schtick. It could be a great scene except that Brad’s still not quite himself and not much has happened that warrants that kind of denouemont. More like, “Hey, we’re all in a room together and nothing else is happening. Let’s talk.”
Oh, and despite the title, there isn’t a black glove in sight. Not even opera gloves, although there should be because nightlife. American audiences in 1954 must have felt gypped or at least confused.
The Black Glove, or Face the Music as it’s known in Britain, is wholly mediocre, full of bad angles and sluggish drama. It’s best seen for the music, none of which is known outside of this movie but is presented pretty effectively. It’s not great, just adequate. There’s not much the filmmakers could do except plant the camera and frame the song.
The drawback is music that would ordinarily be played under the action becomes the main focus of a scene when there should be character development happening, and it not only stops the movie’s narrative in its tracks, but it makes everything else move really, really slowly. And the music isn’t good enough or novel enough to make these interludes worthwhile.
That’s the problem with the whole movie. It doesn’t do much of anything to engage the viewer. It hits a few of the usual noir cliches, but it doesn’t hit them very hard, and it certainly brings nothing new.
Alex Nicol’s Brad is the only part of the movie that’s somewhat bearable because Nicol was a decent actor with a pretty good career. Brad is a likeable guy although he’s always waking up to people staring at him. It happens often enough that it could be a game.
At the time Nicols was on a break from his studio, Universal, and went to Britain, where he made three movies, including The Black Glove. Hammer took full advantage of his services, because he’s in almost every scene, but it was obviously a wash–most biographies of Nicols don’t mention the film by name. Afterwards he was able to go back to America and pick up where he left off, staying respectably active in the film business until 1976.
Not surprisingly, The Black Glove is pretty forgotten today. Well, not just forgotten. More like buried under lock and key and the key went missing eons ago. TCM has nothing about it except for some bare bones info. No reviews on Allmovie.com. No reviews on Amazon. Nothing on Rotten Tomatoes. Not even Variety has a review. No one from the past or the present seems to care about this movie. Well, IMDb and Wiki care, but they care about everyone. Sort of, anyway.
I couldn’t even care about it all that much. I think I started scrolling through Instagram about halfway through, actually. Yeah, I’ve seen worse. Much worse (And yes, I’m looking at you, Manos, Cosmos, and Birdemic). The difference is that worse can potentially be hilarious, whereas The Black Glove is just blah. I don’t think I set out to give bad or meh reviews, but when it comes to a topic I’m not really up on, I have a really good chance of stumbling into them. Does that make any sense?
I was, however, impressed with the way Brad called out his evidence and pointed fingers at the suspects during the big finish. If this character ever retired from the music business, he could definitely have had a promising future in Agatha Christie cosplay.
For more Hammer and Amicus goodness, please see Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews and Barry at Cinema Catharsis. Thanks for hosting–this blogathon is always fun! Thanks for reading, all, and hope to see you tomorrow for my (mostly) spoiler-free review of Dune…
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