711kPsCYA6L._SL1340_Director: Paul L. Stein
Screenplay: Dudley Leslie & Walter Summers
Starring: Raymond Massey, Joan Marion, Walter Hudd, Dan Tobin, Henry Oscar
Year: 1939
Country: UK
Running Time: 65 mins
BBFC Classification: PG

During a rainstorm, on a wind-swept beach, a milkman finds the body of a young woman, who’s been strangled. New Scotland Yard’s Inspecter Tanner is on the case and he suspects it’s the woman’s lover ‘who done it’ and goes to see the suspect’s wife, Mary Charrington, to tell her that her missing husband, Peter, is wanted in connection to the death of the young woman, Lily Taylor. It seems she already knew about her husband’s extra-marital affair, but doesn’t believe he has it in him to kill anybody.

To make matters worse for Peter Charrington, the police think he might also be responsible for a series of child murders in Dorset, murders that only occur during the light of the full moon in the same way that this latest murder occurred. However, the police don’t seem to have any evidence to back this accusation up and Mary, and her lawyer (and family friend) Lawrence, understandably think they’re clutching at straws.

The case has created a media frenzy and, just before the house is surrounded by media-types and other associated hangers-on, Peter sneaks in through the French Windows to see his wife. It turns out that Lily had sent Peter out of the holiday bungalow to get some supplies when she was murdered. He says that on his return he found the body and fled. It soon becomes apparent that the killer might be closer to them than they at first thought…

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Black Limelight is a fairly satisfying crime thriller with an interesting idea whereby the killer is sensitive to light, and hence is most comfortable killing during the light of a full moon. What’s probably most refreshing about the film is that the real ‘hero’ is the put-upon wife, who comes across as a very brave, forgiving and resourceful woman and far more intelligent than most of the men surrounding her. In that sense the film is ahead of its time. Sadly the clipped accents and ways in which most of the people interact with each other seriously date the film.

Talking of the film in a more technical manner, the picture and sound quality are pretty decent, although I did note that quite a few frames are missing, particularly near reel changes, but that’ll be due to the film’s age, I’d guess.

Overall, Black Limelight is a decent low-rent crime thriller, which doesn’t quite get my higher praises due to a rather unsympathetic lead male character (Peter – he’s a bit of a prat) and its stage-play like qualities.

Black Limelight has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Network Distributing who are, to their credit, currently releasing lots of these rarer British film titles. Here they’ve done a good job with the restoration of the print and it generally looks good in its original theatrical ratio. There’s a pretty massive stills gallery (112 stills), which is quite impressive.

About The Author

Justin Richards is a journalist by day and a scriptwriter by night. His work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not sitting hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

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