Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Classics - THE DEATH KISS on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Kino Classics - THE DEATH KISS on Blu-ray

THE DEATH KISS (1932; Edwin L. Marin)
From Kino's Site:
Reuniting three of the stars of Universal's Dracula (released the previous year), this low-budget production was, on the surface, a blatant attempt to capitalize on a major Hollywood hit. But THE DEATH KISS is anything but a cheap knock-off. A Pre-Code murder mystery that plays out on the sound stages, screening rooms, and dressing rooms of the fictitious Tonart Studios, the film offers modern viewers a precious glimpse at the workings of a Poverty Row studio during the Great Depression. Bela Lugosi stars as the head of a struggling studio, who tries to contain a scandal after an actor is killed during the making of a film. While the police investigate the deepening mysteries within the studio, a quick-witted screen- writer (DavidManners) decides to solve the crime himself, in order to clear the picture's leading lady(AdrienneAmes) from suspicion.

A keen little Poverty Row whodunit set at a movie studio. With this kind of a straightforward film, there are a few potential stumbling blocks. One that always takes me out is that they often tend to have some sidekick-y comic relief type fella that is a total clutz or has some speech impediment or something lame. This film has a character like that, but I found him perfectly affable and endearing. Another thing that can be annoying is the know-it-all type who's trying to outsmart the cops and at detective. THE DEATH KISS has that character too, but he is equal parts charming and clever and is an enjoyable window through which to watch the mystery get figured out. The film has several red herrings and a gallery of suspects so it's intriguing and entertaining to watch everyone act shifty all the time. Lugosi is nice as part of this ensemble. Adrienne Ames is also lovely as the femme fatale-ish female lead. I was unfamiliar with her, but she made many film appearances (often in background/supporting roles, sometimes uncredited) in a relatively short period of time.
I should also mention that the film has some tinted color flourishes periodically - usually from lights or in one case, a fire (each of these instances were hand tinted which took quite a bit of time).

Special Features:
This disc features a lovely audio commentary from film historian Richard Harland Smith (from Video Watchdog & The Movie Morlocks). Smith gives an energetic and informative track with lots of backstory on the filmmakers, the studio that made the film, the actors (and the roles they were most known for) as well as the source material. It's not a wall-to-wall commentary, there are many moments of Smith not talking, but it seems well-researched and there's plenty of great information throughout.
As for the transfer, it's a "best this movie is going to look" proposition for sure. There seem to be a lot of public domain type crappy versions of it out there and this one, though the print shows wear in parts, is head and shoulders above those. FYI, The clip I found below does not reflect the Kino Blu-ray transfer.

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