The Death Kiss (1932) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
48 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Solid Mystery With Good Atmosphere & An Interesting Cast
Snow Leopard13 July 2005
Despite its low-budget look, "The Death Kiss" is a solid mystery, and it does a good job of creating a believable movie studio atmosphere as the background to the main story. It's also interesting to see Bela Lugosi, Edward Van Sloan, and David Manners reunited in a setting so different from "Dracula". While some of its limitations are rather obvious, it's a pretty good effort for a low-budget feature from the early sound era.

The opening sequence might be the best part of the movie, as it cleverly sets up the mystery, introduces most of the characters, and illustrates the movie's themes. In the main part of the movie, it generally follows convention, with Manners as an eager amateur who is usually a step ahead of the police. The pace is also a little uneven at times, which was relatively common in the early 1930s, but there are always some interesting details and developments that keep it together.

Van Sloan, as a movie director, gets some pretty good opportunities. Lugosi is always a welcome addition to any suspense or mystery story, and he makes the most of a character who doesn't really get all that much to do. As the lead, Manners is likable, though often a bit bland. Adrienne Ames is adequate as the heroine, and the minor characters are given some occasional moments of their own.

The result is a decent mystery that keeps you guessing. It will probably be of interest mainly to those who are already fans of the era and genre, but with that in mind it's not bad.
29 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Fanciful Murder Mystery
Space_Mafune12 February 2003
I've got to admit my initial attraction to this movie was the fact that Bela Lugosi was in it...going in for that reason, this film will prove a disappointment as Bela's role is a relatively short one.

Despite this, I have to admit to enjoying this somewhat fanciful murder mystery which has the detective writer as the hero and ultimately a more competent detective than the real thing. This story about a murder on a movie set still feels more like a movie than real life..but the murder mystery does keep you guessing and interested which means it's certainly worth a watch.
23 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Studio Murder Mystery
lugonian14 June 2002
"The Death Kiss" (Tiffany, 1932), directed by Edwin L. Marin, might have been a very interesting vampire movie, but instead, the director fools his movie audience by revealing, from the very first few minutes into the story, to be an inside study at the behind the scenes look in movie making, combining murder mystery with comedy, but not all too successfully. The main interest is not in the "who done it" plot itself, but on its three major actors, David Manners, Bela Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan, better known today for their performances in director Tod Browning's thriller, "Dracula" (Universal, 1931), with Lugosi as the title-role character-star with Manners and Van Sloan in support. In this reunion, Manners takes center stage over Lugosi and Van Sloan in smaller roles. Although Lugosi is not in every scene, he does make his presence felt throughout its 70 minute venture.

The fade-in of "The Death Kiss" opens outside a ritzy nightspot where a woman is to mark a certain man for death by kissing him in the lobby of a fashionable apartment building. Moments later, gun shots are fired by passing mobsters, killing the man in question, followed by a crowd gathering. Then the camera pulls away, revealing the sound stage and focusing on the behind-the-scenes crew consisting of a script girl, cameramen, assistant director, and director (Edward Van Sloan) who wants to have a retake, feeling that the death scene did not look realistic enough. Hollywood realism sets in when moments later, it is revealed that the actor, Myles Brent (Edmund Burns), the doomed character in the production of THE DEATH KISS, has actually been shot and killed. Top-billed David Manners as Franklin Drew, a mystery writer, steps into the picture trying to solve the murder in order to prevent the leading lady, Marcia Lane (Adrienne Ames), whom he has become interested, from becoming the prime suspect. Detectives are called in, and after a few more murders at the movie studio, Drew draws to his own conclusions as the detectives (and the viewers) become baffled before the killer is revealed.

The supporting cast includes Bela Lugosi as Joseph Steiner, president of the Tonart movie studio; Edward Van Sloan as Tom Avery, the film director; John Wray as Detective Sheehan; Vince Barnett as Officer Gulliver, affectionately called "a Keystone Cop" due to his buffoonery; Alexander Carr as the accented Leon A. Grossmith; with Barbara Bedford as the script girl; and Harold Waldridge as Charlie, the bellboy, among others.

A rediscovered "poverty row" mystery that enjoyed frequent revivals during the early years of cable television in the 1980s, "The Death Kiss" recently has been restored with hand-tinted red color sequences used in parts with studio lights and gun shots, but otherwise a routinely old-fashioned mystery from the short-lived Tiffany Studios and not by Universal. A public domain title, "The Death Kiss" has been available on video cassette by numerous distributors in the 1980s. Currently, the best clear and sounding print can be found on both restored video copies and/or from Turner Classic Movies where it airs in October in honor of Halloween.

Although the storyline can be confusing at times, with director Edwin L. Marin continuing to play tricks on his movie audience (as with his opening scene and movie title) by keeping them guessing, with the "comedy relief" turning out not to be all that amusing, "The Death Kiss" in turn is a likable little time filler from the bygone days of Hollywood.(*1/2)
16 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Fun Mystery With a Very Effective Early Technical Gimmick
aimless-4618 August 2006
"The Death Kiss" (1933) should be a nice surprise for those who like traditional murder mysteries. It's a movie within a movie and both have the same title, which refers to the on- screen murder of movie star Myles Brent during the filming of the last scene of a film called the "The Death Kiss". He is shot while playing a scene in which he is shot, a development that was about to be written off by the police as a prop man's accident until they discovered that the bullet was a different caliber than the guns being used in the production.

The police then turn their attentions to his co-star and ex-wife Marsha Lane (Andienne Ames) which inspires her boyfriend (David Manners) to do some amateur sleuthing to track down the real murderer.

"The Death Kiss" could qualify as the first buddy picture as he is closely assisted by his friend Officer 'Gully' Gulliver (Vince Barnett), a bumbling studio security guard who provides the film's comic relief. The mix of serious murder mystery and comedy is in perfect proportion and Barnett gives a truly exceptional performance. Much of the humor comes from the pair's ability to stay just ahead of the police, much to the irritation of the detectives doing the investigation and to the crowing delight of Gully.

There are an array of suspects (Brent would not have won a popularity contest) besides Miss Lane including studio executives Joseph Steiner (Bela Lugosi), Leon Grossman (Alexander Carr) and Tom Avery (Edward Van Sloan). Lugosi's name and likeness headline the DVD package and while his part is substantial, it is still just that of a supporting character.

There are enough red herrings to keep the viewer guessing and the pacing is quite fast even with limited action sequences. There are significant advantages associated with setting a screenplay in a movie studio. The cost savings in set design, the appeal of the movie industry to viewers, and the fact that the writer can draw upon occupations with which he is familiar to give the script convincing authenticity.

One thing to watch for is the use of color in a few sequences in this otherwise black and white film. When there is a fire in the projection booth and later a chase scene with flashlights, the producers enhanced the effect with an amber tint. This was applied to the prints (at least some of them) by stencils, which masked the majority of the frame so artists could color in the portion that was to be amber. Since there are 24 frames per second it was only necessary to apply this process to every other or every third frame to get the effect, but it was still an extremely labor-intensive process. "The Death Kiss" was not the first time this was done but it was the most effective because the cinematography made excellent use of light and shadow, with the contrast nicely enhancing the effect of the amber frames. Technically this gimmick was a forerunner of stuff like "Smell-o-vision", "Emergo", "Illusion- o", and "Sensurround".

The DVD and TMC prints are serviceable but obviously worse for the wear. There are a number of audio and video dropouts but the story seems to be complete.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
25 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Interesting early talkie, movie in murder studio.
Steve-1715 August 1999
Not bad little cheapie, an early talkie about a murder in a movie studio. Enough clues to go on, some good red herrings, and only a couple of holes in the plot. Of course, to film buffs, Lugosi is the main attraction, but his part is small and his accent distracts. Interesting peeks at working movie company in the 30s.
14 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Good rainy day movie
holger_haase12 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Very interesting little whodunit and one of the first "films about films", i.e. movies that are set on a studio backlot. An unexpected murder right in front of a movie shot (no pun intended) brings Bela Lugosi, Edward Van Sloan and David Manners back together from Dracula. At 70 minutes this film does not overstay its welcome. Just when you least expect it you actually get flashes of colour amongst the general black & white production: Flames and gun shots are handcoloured in red, smoke and torch lights in yellow. That gimmick alone would give it an extra star IMHO. Well worth checking out: It won't change your life, but it won't waste an hour of it either.
9 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Seeing early sound equipment is what makes this film fascinating
kidboots11 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Could this be the first crime film where the murder happens in a film within the film???

Myles Brent is an actor with many enemies. While "shooting" a scene from a film entitled "The Death Kiss" he is gunned down.

David Manners is the likable crime writer who wants to get to the bottom of things and clear lovely Adrienne Ames of suspicion of murder. Bela Lugosi is Joseph Steiner, the studio head (does he have something to hide????) His speech at the end is great. I think his casting threw everyone off the scent.!!! Barbara Bedford, who had a huge career in both silent and sound films, plays a script girl. Mona Maris, is strangely uncredited as Mrs. Agnes Avery. She was from Argentina and worked in Hollywood a few years. This was her last film before going back to Argentina.

The "Tonart" studios in the film was actually Tiffany Studios - it was interesting to see behind the scenes. Also interesting was seeing the early sound equipment that the studio used. When David Manners finds a gun in the camera and takes it apart (the camera), you can see the mechanism - I found it fascinating.
12 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Involving murder on a movie set mystery..
grubstaker5831 May 2006
Another pleasant surprise from a 50 set Mystery Classic DVD package put out by Treeline Films. The Death Kiss is a diverting early 30's murder mystery set against the backdrop of a Hollywood studio movie production.This viewer enjoyed the knowing glimpse of the inner workings of a studio...the "Old Country" Jewish studio boss(with the fractured English and acute cost consciousness),the Big Star actress with a rocky private life,and the amateur sleuth screen writer.The whole cast , in this not exactly big budget film, is first-rate(a little too broad on the comedy relief). Good looking. likable chap David Manners plays the writer, and seems to be having a lot of fun doing so(what's with these David Manners bashers? My God, you'd think he was as bad as George Raft -The All-Time Worst "actor").) Bela Lugosi is earnest but somewhat out of place here.The Death Kiss keeps you guessing and is a nice flash-back to "Talkies" and actual "ice" in the ice box. Take a look....
19 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Adequate old-time mystery
djensen112 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Interesting in part because it reunites the three stars of Dracula. David Manners heads the cast of a so-so early talkie murder mystery set in a Hollywood film studio. The acting is typical of the early 30s, with a lot of posing and arch glances. It even ends with the Old Hollywood cheek-to-cheek embrace.

Bela Lugosi is fun and Edward Van Sloan is better. Even Manners does an adequate job, once the plot gets rolling, of being a better detective than the police detective. The occasional decent laugh doesn't outweigh the weaknesses of the story, but not a bad pick for those who love the era. * * * * SPOILER A second viewing confirms that the supposed killer could not possibly have done it. He's surrounded by other people and completely out of position. A very odd oversight.
11 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Poverty Row Mystery!
bsmith555212 June 2007
"The Death Kiss" has been played up in recent years as a suggested horror film starring Bela Lugosi. In fact it is an interesting little murder mystery with Lugosi playing only a supporting role. Directed by first time director Edwin L. Marin, it contains many little plot twists to keep the viewer's interest.

In the opening scene for example, a man is shot down as he leaves a posh night club following an unsolicited "death kiss' from an attractive woman. It turns out that we were in fact watching the shooting of a movie. It also turns out that the actor who was "shot", Myles Brent (Edmund Burns) was really killed. So we are introduced to another of those Hollywood "behind the scenes" stories.

Detectives Sheehan (John Wray) and Sgt. Hilliker (wade Boheler) arrive on the scene. Turns out that Brent had been shot with a .38 caliber pistol while the props used in the scene were .45 caliber containing blanks. And, the actress who administered the "death kiss", Marcia Lane (Adrienne Ames) had been married to Brent.

Studio mystery writer Franklyn Drew (David Manners) takes it upon himself to investigate the case. He discovers where the shot came from and reports it to the cops. With the help of bumbling stdio guard "Gully" Gulliver (Vince Barnett) he continues his investigation.

Several suspects including Studio Boss Leon A. Goldsmith (Alexander Carr), Studio Manager Joseph Steiner (Lugosi), Director Tom Avery (Edward Van Sloan) as well as, Marcia Lane are investigated. Circumstances point to the guilt of Marcia and Drew, who has a romantic interest in her, works to find the real killer.

Needless to say, director Marin throws in several red herrings along the way. In the process he gives us an entertaining little (though low budget) mystery thriller.

As I mentioned earlier, Bela Lugosi is restricted to but a few scenes, most of which have him glaring at the other characters with those piercing stares. Manners and Ames make an attractive hero and heroine respectively. Its hard to believe but Lugosi, Manners and Van Sloan had appeared together a year earlier in Lugosi's signature film, "Dracula". Lugosi you would have thought, would have gone on to bigger and better things, however, he chose to appear in several low budget poverty row quickies in the years following his success in "Dracula".

Not bad for a poverty row thriller.
7 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Write the Movie
tedg10 May 2007
Here's another important early detective movie. It is important because it is early in the life of talkies (just two years after, really); it is a mystery (which was just being invented cinematically); and it is "folded."

That last means that it is a movie. And it is about a movie. All the characters except the hapless police detective are part of the movie within, which is also called "The Death Kiss." That designated detective is our usual surrogate: in the outer film trying to suss out the inner.

The murder in question is a murder in the movie within that is "real," meaning it is also in the outer movie. The real detective turns out to be the writer of the inner movie. I am not sure if this is the first appearance of this particular device. I would appreciate hearing if it is not. If it is, this film is of enormous importance. If not, it is still important, though for enjoyment purposes, well its pretty far down the list.

I'm tentatively making this a "worth watching," but if I confirm that it is the first talking with a movie with written by the same guy that writes the outer movie, I'll elevate it to a four.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Danger on the film set
chris_gaskin12330 March 2005
The Death Kiss reunited three of Dracula's stars: Bela Lugosi, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan.

While shooting a film, its lead star is murdered. There are a lot of people who could have carried this murder due to his involvement with a lot of the women in the studio. Then, another murder takes place when a man is poisoned. The murderer is caught at the end.

As well as the Dracula stars, The Death Kiss also stars John Wray and Adrienne Ames.

Watching The Death Kiss is a good way to spend just over an hour one evening.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
12 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A reunion for Lugosi, Manners, and Van Sloan
bensonmum229 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
It's a plot device that's been used many times since, but The Death Kiss may have been the first time an actor was killed on set when someone fired a real bullet instead of blanks (at least it's the first I know of). Studio writer Franklyn Drew (David Manners) takes it upon himself to "help" the police find the killer – whether they actually want him snooping around or not. It seems that Drew has a thing for the film's leading lady, Marcia Lane (Adrienne Ames), a prime suspect because of her past relationship with the dead man. With lots of clues, red herrings, and no shortage of suspects, Drew's got his work cut out for him.

The Death Kiss is far from being a great movie, but for a low budget poverty row thriller/mystery, it's not half bad. One of the more interesting aspects of the film is the reuniting of Dracula alums Manners, Bela Lugosi, and Edward Van Sloan. Unlike Dracula, however, this is Manners' film with his scenes and importance far out-stripping his better known co-stars. In fact Lugosi is given very little to actually do other than stare suspiciously and mysteriously at anyone who gets within his gaze. Another positive aspect is the relationship between Manners and Ames. They work well together and make a very believable couple. First time director Edwin L. Marin does a more than adequate job with this early talkie. He seems to have an understanding of the medium and how to use it. The plot includes plenty of twists and turns to keep the viewer's interest. And the final outcome and reveal, though dependent upon coincidence and a bit of dumb luck, is more than satisfactory.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An early self-reflexive film
hasosch8 August 2009
The emergence of self-reflexivity is always a sign that a certain final level has been reached in the development of thinking or art. Early literature is not self-reflexive: the love-songs of the minstrels are not personal, but following abstract schemes. The antique novels are not narrated in the first person. The individual is hiding behind an invented protagonist. Also early film did not thematize film itself. Perhaps at the basis of avoiding self-reflexivity is the fear to recognize oneself in the mirror. This had been extensively dealt with in the work of E.T.A. Hoffmann. The motives of losing one's mirror-image or one's shadow roots in this fear. In mathematics, iteration leads quickly leads to the well known paradoxes which cannot be solved in classical logic and which let whole system break together.

"The Death Kiss" (1932) is now in at least three ways an outstanding example of early talky film: First, it is the story of an actor who has to be killed for the shooting of a movie, but at this occasion gets actually shot to death. Second, the movie is a movie on a movie. And third: "The Death Kiss" is both the title of the movie and of the movie in the movie. Furthermore, a special effect is reached - if one wants: number four - by the fact that the actor who wrote the scenario for the movie in the movie (and also for the movie?), which is a criminal story, is also the one who will in the end solve the murder case and deliver the killer to the police which seems to be unable to go ahead without the author of the scenario. As number five, one could mention that Bela Lugosi, who just had played one year ago (1931) the main role in "Dracula", is naturally assumed by the audience to be the villain. But that is not all: As audience, we witness that the detective-author who "investigates" the case also seems to assume over almost the whole running time of the movie that the character Mr. Steiner, played by Lugosi, is in fact the killer. Only in the last couple of minutes we see with him that it is someone else. Herewith not only the expectation of the audience is cheated, but we are forced to follow the progress of the detective-author in our own considerations, i.e. we more or less get ourselves a part of the movie, so that the movie plays on three and not only on two levels: 1. The movie, 2. The movie in the movie, 3. In our perception of the movie and of the movie of the movie. This is an amazing and often overseen movie, and considering it early date quite outstanding.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Good beginning and ending, plodding middle
gridoon20205 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"Death Kiss" has a clever film-within-a-film opening sequence and a memorable high-fall ending, but in the middle it gets plodding. The script has some surprises, but the direction is mostly pedestrian. David Manners is a personable leading man, but Bela Lugosi is largely wasted (the old posters for this film prove that false advertising is NOT a recent practice; they try to make this look like a sequel to "Dracula"!). Warning: the print most commonly found of this public-domain movie, although of generally acceptable quality, contains lots of audio dropouts and missing frames. **1/2 out of 4.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Murder at the film studio!
binapiraeus5 February 2014
Now THERE's a murder mystery for real film buffs: a movie star is murdered during the shooting of the scene in which he's supposed to be 'murdered' by extras using blank bullets... Now, since this star had been linked to almost all the ladies on the set in one way or another, the case becomes complicated: first the suspicion falls on his co-star and ex-wife, but then it could have been anyone from the gaffer (the head electrician for non-movie experts) or the director to the manager or the producer or the scriptwriter - who takes on a little investigation of his own...

A real FEAST for Hollywood fans in many ways: first, almost the whole movie is set - on a set. So we get to see 'in close-up shot' how a film is made and what's going on behind the camera. Second, of course, in this 'little' independent movie we find no less than THREE of the stars of Universal's smash horror hit "Dracula" the previous year: Bela Lugosi as the manager, Edward van Sloan as the director, and David Manners as the scriptwriter - we get to know them in a COMPLETELY different way, that is.

And last but not least, this is simply one of those classic murder mysteries with lots of suspects and a VERY twisted plot - good old Hollywood crime entertainment at its best!
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Pleasant old murder-mystery with a good cast.
capkronos20 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
One of the most novel aspects of this low-budget murder-mystery is the opening sequence. It starts with a man being shot near the front entrance of a building before the camera pans around to reveal it's simply a scene being shot in a movie studio. I've seen this same set-up numerous times in other mysteries, thrillers and horror films and don't recall seeing any films predating this one using this film-within-a-film trick at the beginning. But what is supposed to be a simulated murder turns out to be a real one when a member of the cast or crew actually does shoot the actor from somewhere off-screen. The question is, who did it and why? That's what Lt. Sheehan (John Wray) hopes to find out. Usually beating him to the punch though is studio writer Franklyn Drew (David Manners), who decides to play amateur sleuth when the killer tries to implicate his girlfriend - film star Marcia Lane (Adrienne Ames) - in not only the first murder, but also a second one involving a drunk getting battery acid snuck into his liquor.

Horror fans will note that three of the leads from Tod Browning's classic Dracula, made just one year earlier, round out the cast, including Manners in the lead role and Bela Lugosi (playing studio president Joseph Steiner) and Edward Van Sloan (playing director Tom Avery) in supporting roles, both as just a couple of the potential suspects. It's also nice to get a look at a 1930s film studio, including sets and camera and sound equipment. The screenplay depends a bit too much on coincidence, with Manners finding many clumsily-left clues just lying around at various locations and the killer conveniently popping in long enough to conk someone over the head so he/she can destroy evidence, for the mystery aspects to be fully satisfactory. And the comedy elements, primarily the ones involving a dim-witted set security guard (Vince Barnett) are a bit strained at times. Despite that, the film is still pretty entertaining and worth watching.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Intriguing little mystery
Prichards1234516 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The Death Kiss is a pleasant surprise if you've never caught it before. The film is a neat whodunit set within the confines of a Hollywood studio (acutally Tiffany's own production facilities where the film was made). David Manners gives a very different performance from the bland Universal Horror roles he was asked to fill in the early 30s; he's relaxed and witty as screenwriter Franklyn Drew who takes it upon himself to solve the murder.

The film opens with a brilliant little sequence showing the murder of a man leaving a hotel after just being kissed by a complete stranger, gunned down by assassins - hence the title of the movie. However, a voice yells "Cut" and the camera pulls back to reveal a film set with production personnel watching the action. The Director, played by the always welcome Edward Van Sloan, is not particularly impressed by the dying swan act of his leading man and calls for a re-take. However it's a clever little moment when we realise that the guy is dead...for real! And so the plot unfolds. As well as Dracula alumni Manners and Van Sloan the Count himself turns up in the form of Bela Lugosi. He's the seemingly unconcerned studio manager Steiner, which makes him an obvious suspect of course! In fact that's why Lugosi was cast, the part is nothing in particular but it immediately throws suspicion on him by the simple fact that Bela plays the role.

The central part of the movie is a little slow at times, and the direction is no more than workmanlike; there's the usual annoying comedy relief who even becomes the hero's sidekick, but the mystery itself is good, and Manners makes an excellent lead in a well-written part. It also offers a fascinating early insight into studio production. This is probably a little seen film but it deserves to be better known.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
dbborroughs28 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Top billed Bela Lugosi is actually in a supporting role about murder on a back lot.

Very good murder mystery tale has a screen writer turn to a sleuth in order to track down a killer in a movie studio. This is a great deal of fun, especially if you like to see how the film studios saw them selves or at least projected themselves to the movie going public. Taken on its own terms this is a breezy little film thats worth a box of popcorn and a soda. If I have any real complaint it is the writer turned sleuth is really annoying and too in your face. That said this is funny and witty and impossible to deduce but lots of fun. By all means see it.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Reteaming of some of the Dracula cast
preppy-317 October 2005
Poverty Row movie about a murder in a movie studio while a movie is in production.

Nothing really new here script wise (although the revelation of the murderer DID surprise me). Bela Lugosi is totally wasted here in a small role (I'm assuming this came out before "Dracula") but Edward Van Sloan is good and I like David Manners too. A lot of people seem to hate his acting here but I think it's OK--he's also very good looking too. An extra were the flashes of color at the end (red for gunshots and yellow for lights). It adds nothing to the picture but is certainly inventive--for the time.

Quick, interesting little movie. Worth an hour of your time.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An interesting artifact from the pre-Code years.
jimddddd18 September 2010
These 1930s murder mysteries are generally pretty tedious. They introduce a cast of characters and then slap you with red herrings until the final denouement. This film is no different. But being low budget, as well as a film about life on a film set in 1932, "The Death Kiss" has its fascinating moments. Though most of Hollywood's golden-age moguls and studio executives were Jewish, it's hard to find distinctive Jewish characters in their movies, so it was interesting to see the studio head, Mr. Grossmith (Alexander Carr), speaking with what passed, at first, as an Eastern European accent and on two occasions grabbing his head as he kvetched an "Oy!" But then, as the film progresses, his accent seems to wander all over the place. There's also a gay character, Grossmith's male secretary ("sissie" specialist Harold Minjir), who shamelessly minces through his scenes and even, at one point, lets out a shriek when he accidentally sits down in the studio guard's lap. (I won't comment on leading man David Manners' fairly prominent lisp, other than to say that during his conversation at a rendezvous inn with a bellhop (Harold Waldridge) who has a comic lisp, you have to wonder what the filmmakers were thinking. Unfortunately, we lost those little gems when the 1934 Hays Office Code kicked in and, in the name of decency, ended the careers of actors like Minjir.) The story also lets us watch the film-within-a film's technicians, especially the sound and boom men, do their jobs during the set-ups. Overall, not a bad movie as long as you don't expect much from the plot. As an addendum, "The Death Kiss" was one of the last films shot at the Tiffany Studios at the corner of Sunset and Virgil, which is now a supermarket parking lot. The Tiffany Studios should not be confused with the Monogram Studios just two blocks east, on the north side of Sunset, where the KCET-TV Studios are now located.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"You can't fire a .38 bullet through a .45 gun. It's an old Chinese principle."
utgard1419 June 2017
Pre-code mystery about a murder on a film set. Historically interesting for film buffs as this was produced by the largely forgotten Tiffany Pictures and filmed at their studio. Good cast includes a reunion of three Dracula stars: Bela Lugosi, Edward Van Sloan, and David Manners. Somewhat surprisingly, Manners has the biggest part of the three. All three are enjoyable but I think this is the best role I've seen Manners in. He's more relaxed in his line delivery and less stagy than usual. He shows more personality in this movie than all his more famous Universal movies combined. Lugosi playing a "normal" character is a change. Van Sloan is great as always. Nice camera-work for the period. Other reviewers have called it slow but I thought it was well-paced. It's essentially a drawing room mystery without the drawing room. When you've seen enough of a certain kind of film from a certain period, finding one that's different in any way is a big plus. This is a solid '30s murder mystery that should have some added appeal for fans of Dracula or Universal horror in general.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
pleasant little surprise
mukava9918 January 2014
"The Death Kiss," a humor-laced murder mystery set in a Hollywood movie studio, unspools at a snappy pace offering one delight after another: a striking opening, followed by the introduction of a succession of colorful characters played by Everett Van Sloan, Bela Lugosi, Harold Minjir, Alexander Carr, the photogenic Adrienne Ames and David Manners as a studio writer who tries to figure out whodunit. There is a loose, breezy feel, with the camera tracking and panning freely not only around the movie studio but into its nooks and crannies as the dialogue zings with amusing exchanges and wisecracks. There are even hand-tinted flames, gunshots and flashlight beams during various action sequences.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not Half Bad
artpf30 October 2013
While filming the closing scene of "The Death Kiss", leading man Myles Brent is actually killed. Having played around with, or been married to, most of the women connected with the movie studio, there are lots of suspects. When leading lady Marcia Lane is arrested for the killing, her suiter, a studio writer, starts to investigate the killing in order to prove her innocence.

The 30's and early 40s had a slew of these kind of dark mysterious drawing room dramas made in Hollywood. Many shorts in this genre were made as well. Not sure why. The genre is still popular in theatre of in the UK so maybe that's where it started.

Anyway, this is not a half bad movie. It's a bit slow, but they all are and for a poverty row flick it's quite watchable. Three of the actors from Dracula are re-united. Guess their careers took a quick down turn after Dracula.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Good Mystery Spoiled
GManfred26 June 2009
Is there anything more distracting and more unsatisfying than a comedy-mystery? I cringed when I read the description on IMDb's page for this picture. The two genres don't go together, especially as here, when it's in the form and person of Vince Barnett's dopey-sidekick-keystone-cop routine.

The mystery itself is pretty good and you can't guess the murderer, due in part to several plot holes. David Manners makes a pleasing appearance in a thankless role - if they wanted to go all-out on the comedy angle, a few custard pies in face for his insufferable character would have helped matters a great deal. Way too smug by half.

The movie becomes a Talking Picture for much of the 75 or so minutes and they neglect Bela Lugosi for most of it. But it was an interesting look backstage at a film studio making a film - although it's been done many times since, this must have been one of the first attempts. It started off well but I gave it a rating of a 6 overall.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed