The Death Kiss
The Death Kiss is the film being shot, the star is shot in his last scene with a real bullet.
Over and above the attendant mystery with its cast of amusing characters is the developed joke defrayed by the treatment.
The director is betrayed by his doodles, the death scene has the Judas kiss put upon the star by a lady in cahoots.
Still more wonderful, Marin unobtrusively conveys all the elements of filmmaking it would seem before the final crane-in sets the stage for the unmasking.
The star is a ladies’ man, the lady is his ex-wife, the studio president is counting every dollar, the studio chief is a cuckold, two police detectives go to work, the head of studio security lends a hand, a writer in love with the lady has an interest, an electrician formerly the studio’s head gaffer was fired by the star, a foreign lady was fought over at the Cliffside Inn by the star and her unknown husband.
A Study in Scarlet
This is the second film directed by Edwin L. Marin, he seems to have acquired all aspects of his craft during his apprenticeship. Lighting, sound, camera-work and acting are brought to fine points. The camera is usually placed at the level of a seated spectator, on a modulatory chiaroscuro governing interiors and exteriors. There is no music.
The presence of Robert Florey as screenwriter finds a visible expression in a technique used in his Outpost in Morocco, which is entirely composed of quotes and studies of French painters. Marin has a meeting of “The Scarlet Ring” pan and coalesce into Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters. Another sequence begins with a shot based on Manet’s The Balcony, pans on the actors and cranes with them down a two-part staircase to a door, which is just being opened when there is an insert of a staring corpse. The previous shot is resumed on the corpse falling into the room, followed by a reaction shot. The first establishing shot carries the weight of the sequence, and the tracking places the gag in perspective. In a subjective dolly shot, the camera enters an office, accepts a cigarette, and silently responds to questions with evident facial expressions. Use is made of deep focus into and out of which characters move, with a foreground object keying the scene. The rescue of Susan Kane is seen from a reverse angle, as it were.
The story is Conan Doyle with an admixture of Agatha Christie, a criminal conspiracy that takes the form of a tontine with an element of mystery. With Alan Mowbray as Lestrade, Anna May Wong in red silk pyjamas, and Reginald Owen, who played Scrooge in Marin’s great film of A Christmas Carol for MGM, as a clear-minded, astringent and witty Holmes.
An essential, ingenious problem. Texas St. is one side honest merchants and churchgoers, one side saloons and whorehouses. Cattlemen up from Texas drive the economy, homesteaders are moving in.
The county sheriff (Edgar Buchanan) has an in with the saloons and drovers. The town marshal (Randolph Scott) has a girl on both sides of the street (Ann Dvorak, Rhonda Fleming).
It works out pretty much the way Variety figures in a mildly perspicacious review. Crowther, dozing, smiles upon the work of genius.