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The Death Kiss

USA 1932
produced by
E.W. Hammons for KBS Productions/World Wide Pictures
directed by Edward L. Marin
starring David Manners, Adrienne Ames, Bela Lugosi, John Wray, Vince Barnett, Alexander Carr, Edward Van Sloan, Harold Minjir, Barbara Bedford, Al Hill, Harold Waldridge, Wade Boteler, Lee Moran, Alan Roscoe, Charles Dorety, King Baggot, Wilson Benge, Eddie Boland, Edmund Burns, James Donlan, Mona Maris, Eddy Chandler, Lester Dorr, Neely Edwards, Grace Hayle, Clarence Muse, Spec O'Donnell, Paul Porcasi, Matty Roubert, Harry Strang, Kathrin Clare Ward, Stanhope Wheatcroft
screenplay by Gordon Kahn, Barry Barringer, based on the novel by Madelon St. Dennis

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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During filming of The Death Kiss, a film directed by Tom Avery (Edward Van Sloan), leading man Brent (Edward Burns) is killed, literally while filming a scene, and at first it's believed it was a propgun used in that particular scene, but eventually it's found out that the actual bun was hidden in one of the spotlights - and immediate suspicion falls on Chalmers (Alan Roscoe), a former electrician at the studio who was fired though on Brent's request for drinking on the job, but rehired as an extra at leading lady Marcia's (Adrienne Ames) request, who is also the ex-wife of Brent.

Then though Chalmers is found dead, and everything points at suicide, so much so that investigating cop Sheehan (John Wray) wants to call it a closed case - but writer and amateur detective Frank (David Manners), the current boyfriend of Marcia, finds evidence that suggests otherwise (and actually proves the supposed suicide was actually murder) ... which unfortunately makes Marcia the main suspect, so much so that she is actually arrested.

But while the police are already celebrating the case's solution, Frank investigates further and eventually finds letters of the dead man's many mistresses and the hotel he used to bring them to - where he learns about a rowe Brent had with another guest, possibly his mistress's husband.

Finally, Marcia is granted a one day leave from prison to film the last scenes of The Death Kiss, when Frank gathers final conclusive evidence against the real murderer - which eventually leads to an extensive shoot-out up on the scaffolding of the studio which ends in the murderer falling to his death ... and it turns out to be none other than director Tom Avery himself, whose wife (Mona Maris) had an affair with Brent.

Bela Lugosi can be seen in a red herring role as the production manager, Vince Barnett plays the comic relief as studio cop and Frank's right hand man, and Alexander Carr gives an amusing performance as uneducated studio boss whose grasp of the English language isn't always too sure.

 

First of all, the film The Death Kiss has nothing to do with the novel of the same name by Madelon St.Dennis it claims to be based on even in the credits, second of all, the film is an obvious attempt to cash in on previous year's successful Dracula, as is suggested by The Death Kiss's suggestive title, the inclusion of three of Dracula's leads (Lugosi, Manners, Van Sloan) and even its original poster motive (not pictured here).

Having gotten these two things out of the way, I have to admit that The Death Kiss is quite an enjoyable film, a rather light-footed but never silly murder mystery that draws plenty of its charm from subtle Hollywood in-jokes (first and foremost Alexander Carr as uneducated studio boss) and an entertaining insight into the process of filmmaking as such, which is somehow achieved in the course of the main plot (the murder mystery as such) and thus is not in the least distracting.

Sure, the film might not be a masterpiece, but it's a nice example of early sound low budget murder mystery that has stood the test of time remarkably well.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD