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DEATH KISS, THE(director: Edwin L. Marin; screenwriters: Barry Barringer/Gordon Kahn/based on the novel by Madelon St. Dennis; cinematographer: Norbert Brodine; editor: Rose Loewinger; music: Val Burton; cast: David Manners (Franklyn Drew), Bela Lugosi (Joseph Steiner), Edward Van Sloan (Tom Avery), Adrienne Ames (Marcia Lane), John Wray (Detective Lt. Sheehan), Edmund Burns (Myles Brent), Alexander Carr (Leon A. Grossmith), Vince Barnett (Officer Gulliver), Wade Boteler (Sergeant Owen Hilliker), Harold Minjir (Howell), Al Hill (Assistant director), Alan Roscoe (Chalmers), Eddie Boland (Bill, the property manager), Harry Strang (gaffer); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; Alpha Video; 1932)
“Dazzles with a surprise ending and entertains throughout with a witty script.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Edwin L. Marin (“The Crosby Case”/Johnny Angel”/”Nocturne”) has a nice light touch as he helms this genial detective film, featuring Bela Lugosi, that dazzles with a surprise ending and entertains throughout with a witty script by Barry Barringer and Gordon Kahn. It’s based on the novel by Madelon St. Dennis.

While filming the closing scene for the movie The Death Kiss on the Tonart sound stage in Los Angeles, the drive-by shooting of the leading actor Myles Brent (Edmund Burns) results in his death as one of the guns used by the eight extras has a real bullet instead of a blank. After Detective Lt. Sheehan (John Wray) and Sergeant Hilliker (Wade Boteler) arrive as investigators, actress Marcia Lane (Adrienne Ames), the movie-within-a-movie’s leading lady, who recently divorced the womanizing Brent and stands to inherit $200,000 from an insurance policy her former hubby left her in case of his death, becomes the main suspect. The film’s sharp-tongued writer, Frank Drew (David Manners), who is Marcia’s latest boyfriend, sets out to solve the case to clear Marcia’s name and because it’s a fun thing to do. He’s helped by the studio’s top security guard, the inept Gulliver (Vince Barnett). The obnoxious heavily Jewish accented English mangling studio head, Leon A. Grossmith (Alexander Carr), just cares that the shooting will cost him money in delaying the shoot; the menacing studio manager Joseph Steiner (Bela Lugosi) is concerned only about bad publicity; and the cold director Tom Avery (Edward Van Sloan) worries only about his filmmaking reputation if they shoot the death scene over with a double for Brent. It seems as if no one on the set cared for Brent, and some say he should have been murdered a long time ago.

The bumbling cops are always two steps behind the wise guy Frank, who digs deep and comes up with the motive and eventually the guilty-party but not before the fired former gaffer Chalmers is poisoned to death.

The lowbrow filmed opened at NYC’s high-class 6,000 seat Roxy Theater and after ticket prices were slashed for the Depression-era audience, it did a brisk business.

The low-budget black-and-white film offered one scene, of a film negative burning, in hand-tinted orange flames.

In one scene, the detective is asked why movie detectives always wear fedoras. He tells us: “Because this way they will always have their hands free.” I never heard that one before, but I guess it’s as good as any answer.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”