The Black Dahlia (2006)

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Released 2-May-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer-Harsh Times (2005)
Theatrical Trailer-The Protector (Tom yum goong) (2005)
Theatrical Trailer-Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 115:48
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian De Palma

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Josh Hartnett
Scarlett Johansson
Aaron Eckhart
Hilary Swank
Mia Kirshner
Mike Starr
Fiona Shaw
Patrick Fischler
James Otis
John Kavanagh
Troy Evans
Anthony Russell
Pepe Serna
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Mark Isham

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

On January 15, 1947, Elizabeth “Betty” Short’s unclothed corpse was found in the grassland of a vacant lot in the Leimert Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles. The aspiring actress’ body was bludgeoned and mutilated from the waist down. Short was 22 years old. Her murder has never been solved. Short’s gruesome murder has spawned popular myths and hundreds of suspects and the press named her Black Dahlia, in reference to the 1946 American film noir The Blue Dahlia starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.

Inspired by the real life murder mystery of Short and his own traumatic past, celebrated American writer James Ellroy wrote the acclaimed neo-noir crime novel The Black Dahlia, the first novel in his L.A. Quartet cycle, which included The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential and White Jazz. After the success of Curtis Hanson’s film adaptation of the Ellroy novel L.A. Confidential, a film adaptation of The Black Dahlia seemed imminent.

Initially David Fincher was attached as director and Mark Wahlberg was to portray the character of Lee Blanchard. Fincher eventually left the production but it is interesting to note he recently directed the similarly themed film Zodiac (2007). Wahlberg left the production to pursue his role as Dignam in The Departed (2006). Brian De Palma was later attached as director and production began in April 2005. It is rumoured De Palma’s original cut of the film is three hours, which is possibly the explanation for the film’s difficult structure.

Ellroy’s novel is an intricate character study placed against a Hollywood backdrop of corruption and immorality. The film adaptation rejects many of the interesting and darker themes of obsession and lust in the novel and replaces them with generic melodrama and an erratic storyline.

Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), are two detectives who investigate the horrific death of Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner) whose face is scarred with a ear-to-ear laceration and her body disembowelled. Blanchard lives with Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson), a young student who Bleichert is instantly infatuated with, but he does not reveal his feelings to her because of his friendship with Blanchard.

Both Blanchard and Bleichert who respond to the case in different ways emotionally, find themselves consumed with the murder. The more they involve themselves in the case, the more they are fascinated and equally repulsed. The investigation of Short’s life leads to the saddened existence of a young desperate girl who dreamed of Hollywoodland, but found herself stuck in a corrupt underworld rife with merciless mobsters and gangsters, sleazy filmmakers and young and naive actresses in search of fame.

The film naturally looks superb as De Palma’s trademark shots perfectly fit the debauched yet glamorous environment, although I think the film would have looked magnificent in black and white as the flashbacks of Short's screen tests demonstrate. However as mentioned the structure of the film is disappointing and the possible reason for this is the two hour theatrical version has been edited from a rumoured original three hour cut of the film, which presumably would have had better structured storylines. As a result of the heavy editing the film seems to focus on the more sensationalist perhaps even exploitive themes of the narrative rather than develop the characters and their motivations.

Furthermore the casting leaves much to be desired, Josh Hartnett’s presence is underwhelming, Scarlett Johansson looks uncomfortable in the role and Hilary Swank and Fiona Shaw’s performances may prove to be overstated for some audiences. However both Aaron Eckhart and Mia Kirshner are engaging and their performances reflect the heightened tone of the film.

The Black Dahlia is a disappointment for fans of the novel however, despite the underwhelming performances and the bewildering structure of the atmospheric film, The Black Dahlia certainly benefits from De Palma’s vision.

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Transfer Quality


The film is preserved in its original theatrical aspect ratio in 2.35:1 16x9 enhanced widescreen.

The transfer is pleasing with excellent black levels and exhibits De Palma’s unique stylised vision of muted colours contrasted with expressionistic high key lighting.

The transfer has been encoded at an average bit rate of 6.44 Mb/s over a dual layer DVD and there are no obvious incidents of MPEG compression artefacts.

The transfer remains sharp with excellent shadow detail and pleasing colour.

The optional subtitles for the hard of hearing are true to the onscreen dialogue and action.

The layer change occurred at 55:55 in the midst of a scene.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also skilfully produced as the multi-layered soundtrack remains encompassing and creates the impressive mood of the film without becoming overt during the action sequences. The dialogue remains clear and defined and mostly located at the front of the soundstage. The subwoofer is moderately used.

The trumpet led score by Mark Isham is traditional and works very well with the onscreen action as it is suspenseful, operatic and romantic and well tuned to the ambiance of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio & Animation

The superbly designed and themed main menu is preceded by trailers for upcoming and recent Roadshow Entertainment DVD releases – Harsh Times (2005), The Protector (Tom yum goong) (2005) and Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

The animated menu features a section of the score with scene selections and a set up option. Also the theatrical trailers can be accessed from the main menu.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Black Dahlia has only been released on standard DVD worldwide.

The Region 1 NTSC (Universal) release includes the following extras and specifications:

The Region 3 NTSC (Deltamac) 2 disc set includes the same extra features as the Region 1 and also an English DTS-ES 6.1 soundtrack. Spanish and French subtitle options are not included on this release and neither are the French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround soundtracks. Optional Chinese subtitles are included as well as an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This release also includes the film’s theatrical trailer.


The Black Dahlia is a flawed yet intriguing film adaptation of the celebrated James Ellroy penned novel of the same name, directed by visionary film-maker Brian De Palma. The local release includes above average sound and vision although the DVD is unfortunately bare-bones.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1910, using DVI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A595a - 5.1 DTS
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Thoughts on The Black Dahlia - cztery REPLY POSTED
its definitely not as bad as its made out to be - cztery