The Glass Key (1942)

Genres - Mystery, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Detective Film, Gangster Film  |   Release Date - Oct 14, 1942 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Although the ending has been softened too much from its Dashiel Hammett source, the 1942 version of The Glass Key is still a gripping, invigorating noir thriller. Like the novel, the film gets a bit complicated in places, and some viewers may lose track of the plot at moments; but that shouldn't stop them from enjoying the ride along the way. Glass would also have been bettered served with some motivations made a bit more credible, but the fast pacing and the taut dialogue offers enough rewards that one is willing to overlook this. Besides, Glass features the second pairing of Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd, a pairing which brought out the best in both actors. There's just something about the way Lake and Ladd are when put together on screen that creates steam. His eyes can't seem to convince us they're not looking for her; her lips can't quite convince us they're satisfied being away from him -- and all this happens even before they've acknowledge any interest in each other, or any willingness to do the other in. Both of them can by icy, but we know that inside, they're willing to melt -- as long as the other melts with them. Glass also benefits from Ladd's low-key, almost unemotional playing, especially in contrast with Brian Donlevy's more outward turn. But the best performance comes from William Bendix, whose sado-masochistic beating scene is chillingly involving. Bendix is absolutely riveting, giving a disturbing performance that can't be beat.