Elizabeth Short

January 15th marks the 65th anniversary of one of the most infamous crimes in US history, and the public’s lingering fascination with Elizabeth Short – the woman who came to be known as ‘The Black Dahlia’. When her horribly mutilated body was discovered in a vacant lot at 39th and Norton in Los Angeles on the morning of January 15th 1947, no one suspected that nearly a century later, people would still be asking the question “Who is the Black Dahlia?” A transient, wannabe actress with few (if any) concrete ties in the city, Short’s movements in the years leading up to her death – and especially in the ‘lost week’ immediately preceding the discovery of her body – have been the subject of much speculation. Ironically, this woman who couldn’t get an acting gig to save her life became the obsession of millions when her photo was plastered across every newspaper in the country, and dozens of books, movies and television specials have expounded their own theories as to who Elizabeth Short was, and who killed her, both of which are still a mystery.

Lucie Arnaz as Elizabeth Short

Of all the films made about the case, only one attempts to portray her as a real person, as opposed to a peripheral character (as in Brian DePalma’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s book of the same name, or the Robert DeNiro/Robert Duvall vehicle True Confessions), even though it is as schmaltzy as they come: the 1975 TV movie Who Is The Black Dahlia?, starring Lucie Arnaz (much to her mother Lucille Ball’s objections!). The film has been long unavailable and sought-out by collectors, but is available in full on the TVTERRORLAND Youtube channel HERE:

Also for an example of Black Dahlia Canadiana, check out Deco Dawson’s experimental short film Elizabeth Short HERE (warning: graphic imagery):

- Kier-La Janisse

About the author:

Kier-La Janisse

Kier-La Janisse is a film writer and programmer, Owner/Artistic Director of Spectacular Optical Publications and founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, co-founded Montreal microcinema Blue Sunshine, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival (1999-2005) in Vancouver, was the Festival Director of Monster Fest in Melbourne, Australia and was the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (2005). She is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012) and contributed to Destroy All Movies!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (Fantagraphics, 2011), Recovering 1940s Horror: Traces of a Lost Decade (Lexington, 2014) The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul (University of Toronto Press, 2015) and We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale (PS Press, 2017). She co-edited and published the anthology books KID POWER! (Spectacular Optical, 2014), Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s (Spectacular Optical, 2015) and Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin (2017), and is co-editing Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television for release in late 2017. She is currently writing A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time: Children’s Programming and the Counterculture, 1965-1985, monographs about Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter and Patricia Birch’s Grease 2, and is in development on a TV series based on her book House of Psychotic Women with Rook Films.


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