Alibi - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Alibi Reviews

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March 30, 2015
good pre-code early talkie that's moody & mysterious
Super Reviewer
July 11, 2013
Not a bad little picture for something made in the twenties when I am convinced that filmmakers hadn't quite matured into making decent films.
March 23, 2012
An early attempt at "talkies". Some of the actors still have their silent film manerisms, but it's entertaining none the less.
November 18, 2011
Best Picture Project: (1928/1929): Well I have no idea if this is worse than In Old Arizona, and I'd like to figure that out, but the sound design on this movie was horrible. Too many times lines come out low or modulated, and this is just a result of the horrible job that Kino did to bring this film onto DVD. What's worse is they didn't even include subtitles, which made the understanding of what was going on very hard to do.

From what I could make out, the plot was very predictable, although I can understand that it was probably pretty good back in its heyday, but being a film that was forced to reshoot to be a talkie, you can see there's a lot of negative effects as a result. There are more awkward pauses and silences in this film then there are in Drive. There are a couple of inspired shots and scenes, but they're not powerful enough to raise up the rest of the film. Poor writing, mediocre direction, and acting so hammy Jews can't go near it, this is a film that has aged so much it's lost itself in its own time.
July 26, 2011
Known as extremely boring and overrated. Critics hate it too.
Super Reviewer
May 1, 2011
Although the movie has some good cinematography, it was 29 so there were some sound problems, and most of the actors aren't as good as they could be. The story is predictable for the most part, but the ending was pretty good. Overall, it's okay.
March 13, 2011
An early attempt at "talkies". Some of the actors still have their silent film manerisms, but it's entertaining none the less.
½ March 22, 2010
This has to be the oldest movie i have watched to date. 1929 nominee for best picture was good. Gangster released from prison marries cops daughter and is accused of a murder of another policeman...but he has an airtight alibi..or does he? The sort of funny art deco set was probably quite modern at the time. Also funny are the limitations of a plain old land line...my how far we have come..or have we?
½ March 18, 2010
Only watched it cause it was nominated for best picture. Wasn't anything special about it.
½ February 11, 2010
I'm trying to think of a film from the early classic period (silents thru to the end of the1930's) that show policemen as the main character and also shown in a positive light...but I really can't think of one off hand. I've always thought that the police (or police detectives) in films from this era were basically ineffective buffoons. I guess the stereotype started during the silent era thanks to the comedy shorts of The Keystone Kops. Buster Keaton exploited this theme too in his 1922 classic short, COPS. The gangster pictures of the 1930's would usher in the likes of James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, George Raft and Humphrey Bogart - bad guys as anti-heros. Hmmm...I just thought of Dick Tracy - but I doubt if any of the Dick Tracy films ever reached the popularity of the likes of the Warner Brother's gangster films though...

ALIBI is an early talkie which basically paints the police just as morally bankrupt as the crooks they are trying to apprehend. It seems they have no qualms in framing someone or planting false evidence if the ends justify the means. The bad guy in question here is gangster Chick Williams (Chester Morris). Not soon after Chick is paroled that a warehouse is broken into and robbed. During the break-in, a beat cop is shot and killed. The police suspects that Chick has something to do with it...but Chick has a seemingly airtight alibi - he was at the dance theater with his date, Joan Manning (Eleanor Griffith) during the time of the break-in. Joan happens to be the daughter of one police Sergeant Pete Manning (Purnell Pratt) who happens to be Chick's main accuser. How did the daughter of a police sergeant become involved with a gangster? Well...Joan doesn't have very high opinion of cops. Yep...she thinks cops are corrupt too as she bluntly points out to her irate father when he finds out she had been out on the town with the hood. Sergeant Manning would prefer his daughter marry someone nice, like police Detective Tommy Glennon (Pat O'Malley), whose previous proposals for marriage had been rebuffed by the reluctant Joan.
"I've had enough of being a policeman's daughter", she tells Glennon..."and I don't want to be a policeman's wife".

Actor Regis Toomey also has a prominent role as undercover police detective Danny McGann, trying to infiltrate Chick's gang. He pretends to be drunk throughout most of the film which can wear on you after awhile. There is a prolonged scene near the end of the film involving his character accompanied by the background strains of "Aloha Oe" which I will forgive only because of the experimental nature of sound...but I will understand if you roll your eyes during that part.

Yeah...the story plays out very much like the pulp detective fiction of the era and is dated in that regards. You'll enjoy this if you just go with the flow of things and not be too critical of the film's crude technical aspects. Not so with the artistic aspects, though. The visuals, especially early in the film seems to have been influenced by the expressionistic films from Germany. I also like the liberal use of close-ups. Director Roland West not shy with having his camera up close to the actor's faces.

I've enjoyed Chester Morris in the few films I've seen him in. I especially liked him in the 1936 version of THREE GODFATHERS. He was nominated for Best Actor by the Academy Awards for ALIBI but never really made it big until the 1940's with his Boston Blackie series of films - which I have yet to see but will now try to watch out for.

The dialogue was at times difficult to make out because of the scratchy soundtrack. You can tell what a novelty sound must have been with the way it is employed in this film. Things like the tapping of a policeman's baton on a wall...the clanging of a bell... or the chirping of a canary were new things to experience for the audience of the time. Things we very much take for granted now. It's funny how these early talkies always seem to showcase high-kicking chorus girls too.

7
½ October 24, 2009
Best Picture nominee at the 2nd ever Academy Awards. The plot is nore than decent. A simple robbery ends up getting a cop killed. The primary suspect is a recently released ex-con who has a convenient albi with another cop's daughter. Police work (without forensic evidence!!!) to bring the killer to justice.

Adapted from a stage play, this has more grit than I've seen in other movies of the '30s, which I assumed increased their censorship levels. On the one hand, we've already got a murder. Later on, we see plently of anti-cop sentiment without the audience knowing who the real bad guy is. The cops don't help, using tactics to get things done with a little, "Say what I want you to on the record, or we'll kill you."

Melodramatic time wasting was used too. During one death, someone stared at the sky and said goodbye to everyone while describing their failing eyesight and the chirping of birds. This went on in one shot for about 5 minutes.

You want romantic intrigue, we've got that too. The cop's daughter is in love with the assumed-gangster. On the other hand, the cop that's trying to nail the gangster is also in love with his girl. So is this all for justice or for vengence?

You want comic relief? One cop is undercover as a drunken stock broker who hobnobs at the clubs and gets into situations that otherwise people think he's a harmless lush. While there's some cleverness to that role, it's clear that the actor, Regis Toomey, was playing for the stage, with overdrawn expressions and obnoxious behavior. But it was new-cinema, I'll cut him a break.
June 4, 2009
Stylish early talkie, outstanding cinematography and art direction. It's an amazing film, way ahead of it's time. Good story, excellent use of light. Wonderful from start to finish.
½ May 3, 2009
"L'alibi" avec Louis Jouvet sorti en 1937
Super Reviewer
July 3, 2008
want to see this because it was nominated for best picture at the oscars
½ February 13, 2008
An early talkie that fuses a gangster/crime story with German Expressionist visuals, most present in the interrogation scene. Sound levels drop in and out often. Of interest mostly for historians of the medium as the story will be very familiar, but check out that 5 minute death scene... So if you interested, check it out, but I wouldn't recommend it to most people.
½ February 13, 2008
Some fine "director's moments" don't save this very dated and horribly acted stage play masquerading as a film.
November 12, 2007
If you're a fan or German Expressionist film or early sound pictures, Alibi is worth seeking out. Many of the best sequences are heavily indebted to Lang- especially with his use of sound in M- but they're filtered through a decidedly American sensibility. The story is often stronger than the script, but that's to be expected from a film of this era. Unfortunately the Kino DVD has a number of patches of unintelligible dialogue. While this doesn't spoil the film, it'd have been nice if they could've added optional subtitles for these scenes.

Aside from the outlandish perpetual drunk, the acting is rather restrained. It's nowhere near naturalistic, but then, that's not what this film calls for. This is a dream world of deco sets, flapper show girls and charming killers. If you're in the target audience, you will likely be satisfied.
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