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Who's the star in this knockoff noir? Beefcake Wright or bad girl Payton?
Much as 1948's Whiplash was a cross-knockoff of two John Garfield vehicles (Body and Soul, Humoresque), Bad Blonde grafts Body and Soul to The Postman Always Rings Twice, then transplants the hybrid to alien English soil. At a carnival boxing concession, young Johnny Flanagan (Tony Wright, who looks like young John Kennedy) takes up the challenge and reveals himself as quite the pugilist. Concessionaire Sid James, a savvy judge of boxing talent, sees his opportunity to make a comback in the prizefight racket. He gets Wright signed up with rich old Italian promoter Frederick Valk, who on a recent tour of America has brought back Barbara Payton as a souvenir.
When Wright catches a furtive glimpse of Payton smoothing a stocking along her thigh, he's struck tongue-tied. She's not so bashful, licking her lips as she rakes her eyes up his torso, stripped for the ring. Soon, under the guise of training at Valk's country manor, they're having clandestine clinches in the bracken. But, it apparently being true about leaving one's fight in the bedroom, Wright starts losing his timing, and, more urgently, an important match Valk arranges, thus jinxing his career. But Payton has money, or rather will have once her husband goes down for the count. She feigns a suicide attempt and a pregnancy, then dangles the possibility of murder. The diffident Wright, thinking the child is his, falls in with the plan...
Somebody besides Payton must have been obsessed with Wright's body: The camera finds every opportunity to linger over it, in the ring and under the water, in trunks and towels and bathing briefs. Did this male-fixated aspect of the movie, originally titled The Flanagan Boy with Wright its title character, cause sufficient panic to have the movie renamed and remarketed? As Bad Blonde, it capitalizes on Payton's aggressive allures, soon to be available on the open market: The actress would drift into tabloid scandals, check-kiting and ultimately prostitution. Only four more films would remain before her last, Murder Is My Beat, in 1955. Twelve years later she would be dead of alcohol-related causes.
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