The Death Kiss Reviews
And the film stays consistent to the point, the whole time. The murder plot is fairly okay to follow, you might forget who is who because everyone looks and sounds the same back then and everyone is white, and the black and white looks horrible in SD. But a fairly solid film, nonetheless. Short quickie, worth a watch, I taped this back in October and finally watched it.
Bela Lugosi is listed as the main star these days, because almost nobody remembers David Manners (who only acted on screen for six years before moving to the stage). Manners is very good indeed - and I could imagine he worked very well on stage - and I thought Adrienne Ames did well with a very limited part. Lugosi's best line comes near the end when there is a gentle mocking of his normal screen persona.
Overall this is a little ropey, but there are some good scenes and some great lines - but to a modern audience the way in which Manners's Franklyn Drew gets involved in the investigation, takes evidence, and impairs the police investigation is discreditable, and the police are all too quick to accept the flimsy evidence Drew shows as proof of guilt. All this does, however, leave to a thriling finale in the rafters of the film studio which more than makes up for the slowness of what has come before.
Starring: David Manners, Adrienne Ames, and Bela Lugosi
Director: Phil Rosen
When the star of Tonart's latest mystery movie, "The Death Kiss", is killed during the filming of the climax, studio mogul Joseph Steiner (Lugosi) is convinced that it an tragic accident. But soon the police find evidence that it was actually murder, and suspicious swiftly falls on Marcia Lane (Ames), the dead man's widow. She was having an affair with screenwriter Franklin Drew (Manners), so she had both motive and opportunity to stage the killing. Her lover starts working toward proving her innosence by finding the real killer. But with the deceased having crossed just about everyone working on the production, and Steiner seemingly having an agenda of his own, will Drew clear his lady love, or will the killer add him to the list of victims first?
This low-budget mystery film is a surprisingly well-crafted and well-acted movie. The mystery is complex enough that the audience is kept getting up to the end--I admit to being surprised when the actual murderer was revealed and that doesn't happen often these days! As far as I can find out, "The Death Kiss" is also the first film about some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of making a film. (A number of the clues and red herrings even involve movie-making equipment.)
I enjoyed the film quite a bit. The gimmicky color-tinting didn't do a whole lot for me, but I suspect that it generated a lot of excitement to the people sitting in the theatre in 1933, just like I'm sure they were fascinated by the fictionalized glimpse into the Hollowood Dream Factory.
Trivia: Bela Lugosi and David Manners previously appeared together in Universal's "Dracula" movie, along with Edward Van Sloan (who plays the director of the movie-within-the-movie in "The Death Kiss." In "Dracula," Lugosi had top billing, and Manners had a smaller but crucial part. The opposite is true here, with Manners playing the lead, and Lugosi having limited screen-time, but nonetheless being a presence who is felt throughout the film.