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All Movie Guide -No Orchids For Miss Blandish was sort of the Peeping Tom of its day. Just as the latter movie proved so controversial in England as to damage the career of its director, Michael Powell, beyond repair at home, and even of its star, Karl Boehm, so No Orchids For Miss Blandish marked the beginning and end of the directorial career of its director, screenwriter St. John Legh Clowes; and it seems to have damaged the career of its star, Linden Travers, a lady of considerable beauty (even if she was at least 10 years too old for this role) and long stage experience. And it had all but disappeared from distribution on either side of the Atlantic within a few years of its release, at least in its unedited form. When it opened in England in 1948, No Orchids For Miss Blandish appalled the film critics and more -- the movie was denounced by members of Parliament, and the head of the British board of film censors was forced to issue an apology for having failed to "protect" the public from this picture, by allowing it to be released. So what was the big deal? Mostly, it lay in the amoral nature of the original novel by James Hadley Chase, which was, itself, pretty controverial when it was published in 1939, and which, although toned down somewhat from the book, was still fairly risque in England in 1948. Ironically, the book No Orchids For Miss Blandish had, in turn, been heavily inspired by William Faulkner's Sanctuary -- which, in turn, had been filmed in the early 1930's as The Story of Temple Drake, starring Miriam Hopkins as the thrill-seeking title-character and none other than Jack LaRue, seen here as Slim Grisson, in the role of her kidnapper
apist. The movie's notoriety turned it into something of a sensation in London, and offered the kind of advance publicity that distributors only dream of for America, especially when Life magazine did a photo spread about it. Despite the promises of the US Customs Bureau to block the film's importation in New York, American distributor Richard Gordon managed to get it through customs in New Orleans -- but when a threatened ban by the Catholic Legion of Decency caused original distributor United Artists (who were planning on renaming the movie "The Snatch"!) to pull out, Gordon had to distribute it himself. With a lot of cutting and re-editing, he was able to get it past the New York Board of Film Censors and open it at a movie palace in Manhattan where, thanks to the publicity, it did sell-out business for five weeks, and eventually went around the country. And it was later licensed to Realart, re-edited yet again, and re-released as Black Dice. (The original, uncut British version of No Orchids For Miss Blandish finally had its first public showing in America on September 3, 2009, sixty-one years after its original release, at New York's Film Forum, to a sell-out audience). The movie holds up amazingly well across six decades, despite some awkwardness over the accents in trying to create an American verisimilitude in England. Most of the actors do alright, but Jack Lester's police captain slips a little too much. Otherwise, the picture is an interesting and engrossing -- if not always believable -- British attempt at emulating American gangster movies and film noir. There are enough dots unconnected, in terms of the characters' motivations, to make a lot of it seem preposterous, but enough intensity in the action and the performances so that the viewer can ride over those spots by sheer forward momentum. (There's also a very funny moment of comic relief in a nightclub, where we get a glimpse of comedian/actor Jack Durant doing his joint impersonation of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre). It's not remotely a neglected masterpiece by its maker, as Peeping Tom was for Michael Powell, but it is a lot of fun, amid its unpleasant action and story, and all the more fascinating to see, six decades on.