G-man turned insurance detective Steve Emerson (Warren William) is sent
to Paris to guard the priceless emerald of the Count de Grissac (John
Halliday), after an unsuccessful attempt to steal it has already been made
in New York City. Emerson suspects the attempt to be the work of notorious
but presumably dead jewelthief Arsène Lupin, and suspects him to strike
again in France - but he doesn't know yet how close Lupin is to the
emerald, because Rene Ferrand (Melvyn Douglas), the fiancé of the count's
daughter Lorraine (Virginia Bruce) is none other than the masterthief
himself, having assumed the identity of a gentleman farmer.
paid a visit by two of his oldest and most loyal companions (Nat
Pendleton, E.E. Clive), but when they question him about the foiled
emerald theft in New York, he claims he had nothing to do with it, and has
gone straight and narrow, not in the least for Lorraine's sake. The next
day, the emerald is gone, with Arsène Lupin's signature left behind, and
now Lupin admits to his companions that it was really him, the lure of the
emerald was just too strong. By now, Emerson is already on his trail.
However, the more Lupin insists he has stolen the emerald, the more he
gets caught up in contradictions - and eventually, he and his friends
steal it back from the fence (Tully Marshall) he has allegedly brought it
to, to find the fence killed by someone else. and once Lupin has the
emerald, he insists to have it returned to the count. Because you know, he
really has gone straight, has never actually stolen the emerald, and now
needs to return it to the count to have it stolen again by the real thief
so he can catch the thief red-handed (quite literally, as it will turn
To everyone's surprise, the emerald is returned, only Emerson
seems to know exactly who returned it, but though he pretends to play
cat-and-mouse with Lupin - but always seems to intentionally leave Lupin a
backdoor ... and after the emerald is finally stolen again, the prefect of
police (George Zucco) suspects and arrests both Lupin and Emerson - before
the two of them can prove the guilty party to be Georges (Monty Woolley),
the gambling nephew of the count, Emerson by deduction, and Lupin by
simply having applied some lipstick to the safe containing the emerald,
which has then rubbed off on Georges' hands (red-handed, get it?).
Lupin hasn't done anything wrong (in this picture) at all, and thus he
gets the girl, while his secret remains safe with Steve Emerson, who has
of course long figured Lupin out ...
If you're at all into
movies from the 1930's, you'll probably find yourself liking this film: It
sports a good cast, some poignant dialogue, and its subtly and elegantly
directed. Yet at the same time, you'll probably find yourself not loving
the movie, you'll find yourself having forgotten it in a few days or so,
you'll find yourself not really caring for it.
So if everything I have
mentioned above is right with the movie, what's wrong with it?
probably, it's just too harmless. Sure, there are a few murders and thefts
in the film, but its main focus, Arsène Lupin, normally an extremely
cunning and shrewd criminal with his own moral code, is turned into a
regular saint here - and to be honest, that derives the film of much of
its tension, makes it almost predictable (despite some unexpected
plottwists) and even a tad boring.
Having said that though, the film is
by no means terrible, as mentioned above, it's evenb likeable - it's just
a longshot from great.