In the 1947 drama film “Bommerang!” director Elia Kazan brings to the screen the unbelievably true story of a man falsely accused of killing Reverend Hubert Dahme. Kazan wasn’t allowed to film in the town where the real events took place, so he instead chose to film in the nearby town of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In a partially documentary style of filming, “Boomerang!” has a voice over narration (Reed Hadley). At the start of the film, while listening to the voice over, we are witnesses to the murder and the escape of the killer. Police Chief Harold F. Robinson (Lee J. Cobb), along with Detective Lt. White (Karl Malden), begin a frantic manhunt, but because of a severe lack of evidence and no motive it is almost impossible to make any headway. Soon a newspaperman (Sam Levene) begins to apply pressure and the politicians become involved. At the urging of the high ranking government officials, including businessman Paul Harris (Ed Begley), Chief Robinson applies extra pressure in order to find someone to prosecute.
Robinson catches a lucky break when he finds his victim in John Waldron (Arthur Kennedy). The witnesses all pick him in a lineup, and a former girlfriend (Cara Williams) claims he was in the vicinity at the time of the murder. State’s Attorney Henry Harvey (Dana Andrews) is brought in to prosecute, but after going over all the evidence he isn’t convinced Waldron is guilty, and actually tries to convince the judge to throw out the case.
“Boomerang!” is a driven drama that doesn’t slow down from start to finish, even in the courtroom scenes. With so much of the film being made as closely as possible to the true events, this isn’t a suspenseful film, but rather a well told, highly important story. Often times, part documentary films don’t come off very well because of the inevitable amount of details that have to be told, but in “Boomerang!” everything is unveiled masterfully, making the audience feel more like a member of the courtroom. Richard Murphy received a much deserved Academy Award nomination for Writing: Screenplay, and when you watch this film, his work shines as the story is slowly, yet smoothly revealed.
It also doesn’t hurt that “Boomerang!” boasts such a delightful cast of character actors. It is one of the finest young casts assembled, and it is fun to see so many well known actors in such small yet vital roles, especially Kazan regulars, Lee J. Cobb and Karl Malden.
This was the second directorial film for Kazan, as it was released in March of 1947. Later that year he would also release “The Sea of Grass” (1947), starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, and “Gentleman’s Agreement” (1947), which won three Academy Awards including Best Picture.
More from Elia Kazan:
“Panic in the Streets” (1950)
“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)
“Viva Zapata!” (1952)
“On The Waterfront” (1954)
“Wild River” (1960)Back to Home for More Reviews