The Black Dahlia

September 15th, 2006


The Black Dahlia

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Still of Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson in The Black DahliaStill of Josh Hartnett and Hilary Swank in The Black DahliaBrian De Palma and Scarlett Johansson at event of The Black DahliaStill of Aaron Eckhart and Josh Hartnett in The Black DahliaStill of Josh Hartnett and Hilary Swank in The Black DahliaStill of Aaron Eckhart, Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson in The Black Dahlia

Two policemen see their personal and professional lives fall apart in the wake of the "Black Dahlia" murder investigation.

Release Year: 2006

Rating: 5.6/10 (43,302 voted)

Critic's Score: 49/100

Director: Brian De Palma

Stars: Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johansson

In 1946, the former boxers Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert and Lee Blanchard are policemen in Los Angeles. Lee has a good relationship with his chief and uses a box fight between them to promote the department and get a raise to the police force. They succeed and are promoted to homicide detectives, working together. Bucky becomes a close friend of Lee and his girlfriend Kay Lake, forming a triangle of love. When the corpse of the aspirant actress 'Elizabeth Short (I)' is found mutilated, Lee becomes obsessed to solve the case called by the press Black Dahlia. Meanwhile, Bucky's investigation leads him to a Madeleine Linscott, the daughter of a powerful and wealthy constructor that resembles the Black Dahlia. In an environment of corruption and lies, Bucky discloses hidden truths.

Writers: Josh Friedman, James Ellroy

Josh Hartnett - Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert
Scarlett Johansson - Kay Lake
Aaron Eckhart - Lee Blanchard
Hilary Swank - Madeleine Linscott
Mia Kirshner - Elizabeth Short
Mike Starr - Det. Russ Millard
Fiona Shaw - Ramona Linscott
Patrick Fischler - Deputy DA Ellis Loew
James Otis - Dolph Bleichert
John Kavanagh - Emmett Linscott
Troy Evans - Chief Ted Green
Anthony Russell - Morrie Friedman
Pepe Serna - Tomas Dos Santos
Angus MacInnes - Capt. John Tierney (as Angus MacInnis)
Rachel Miner - Martha Linscott

Taglines: Inspired by the most notorious unsolved murder in California history.


Official Website: Metropolitan Films [France] | Universal Pictures [uk] |

Release Date: 15 September 2006

Filming Locations: Alto-Nido Apartments -1851 N. Ivar Street, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $50,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $10,005,895 (USA) (17 September 2006) (2226 Screens)

Gross: $22,518,325 (USA) (22 October 2006)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Brian De Palma offered the role of Madeleine Linscott to Eva Green, but she turned it down because she didn't want to be typecast as a "femme fatale" and the role went to Hilary Swank.

Continuity: When Bucky is shot at, the bullet puts a hole through a windshield of the car. In the next shot, the bullet hole is gone.

[first lines]
Ofcr. Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert: [voiceover] Mr. Fire versus Mr. Ice. For everything people were making it out to be, you'd think it was our first fight. It wasn't. And it wouldn't be our last.

User Review

over-the-top mess


Anybody expecting to get a great account of the Black Dahlia case, even fictional, will be disappointed going in to this movie. Of course, I knew that it was a fictionalization of the case, but I had no idea the movie would present its own evidence and draw its own conclusions.

But the main problem here is not the lack of factual detail, so much as the confusion of plot that surrounds and overwhelms the Black Dahlia case itself. So much plot and character and sideplots and backstory are built around the central characters that the case itself seems like a distraction. A key plot point and character motivator is the fascination of the two detectives with the murder, but this is never elaborated enough in the film, and we're left to half-heartedly guess at the character motivations.

The tone is never consistently campy, but when the camp arrives it overwhelms the story. A dinner scene between a suspect and her family had the crowd in stitches (the only scene during which the audience laughed). The problem is that the scene is valuable to the plot and should never have been played for laughs. Hitchcock or even Lynch could have shot the same scene, with the same events and dialogue, and made it menacing and creepy, which it needed to be to function in the mystery.

Other problems: De Palma uses the lesbian angle of the movie (never a part of the case) to full exploitative advantage, and the actresses seem unable to master to the expressive 1940s style acting that would have come naturally to even a marginal 40s star.

Although the film brings a clearcut finale rather than a vague puzzle, too many loose threads come together too neatly and rather than bringing the film to a satisfactory conclusion, it leaves you scratching your head, is this what I spent the last 2 hours waiting to hear? Overall, there is too much plot, too little character development and a wildly uneven tone. The movie has its moments but it's a blinding mess all together.


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