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"Your logic is simply hypnotic" says a "dumb copper" to Boston Blackie in The Chance of a Lifetime. I can't help but feel the logic of William Castle's directing follows in turn. Castle certainly developed his stylistic system and method of directing across his career, but this early entry characterizes his lack more than anything else (a lack he wold make up for in time). Diegetic space is constructed through shot scale cut-ins for an otherwise static camera. Later, Castle would develop his system with more mobile framing and angular contrapuntal direction (Ohmart in the Emergo scene in Haunted Hill is captured in a multiple of angular shots). In The Chance, the camera is positioned with frontality as the dominant. When groups of characters are framed, they huddle symmetrically staged in front of the camera lens creating balanced tableaux. The staging and blocking does not have the oblique quality prominent in later Castle films. The story itself involves Blackie's proposed plan to the state's Governor to parole ex-cons in order to aid in munitions manufacturing for the war. Recidivism and risk assessment are the name of the game as Blackie gets tangled up in the loose ends of an old crime of one of the paroled cons. There is good suspense and characterization but at times the acting is stilted while the dialogue is a little on-the-nose. As is characteristic of Castle "B" status films, plot contrivances abound. An earlier reviewer seemed to express that the contrivances are an asset or perhaps aid, while I cannot agree. The "cigarette gag" and "secret panel" gag have the lameness that makes narrative progress move forward with an awkward gait. The buffoonery of the police was an issue with the critics upon release as far as it concerns the status quo. For me, the portrayal of the police as stooges gets tired and leads to the story dragging somewhat (others may disagree). The ending involves confessions under extreme duress and although neat, are also an element of convenience at service for the production and not the audience. The flaws in directing would be repeated several times by Castle as he worked slowly to develop a more sound stylistic system.
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