The Death Kiss (1932) – By Duane L. Martin

When a well known but not very well liked actor is killed while shooting a scene, the evidence all points to one person, his leading lady, Marcia Lane (Adrienne Ames).  Fortunately for her, a rather sharp screenwriter and potential love interest, Franklin Drew (David Manners) is on the case and helping the cops to find the real killer, even though most of their attention is focused on Marcia.  Bela Lugosi plays the head of the film studio who’s trying to keep the incident hush hush, but he’s got just as much of a motive for murder as several others.  As the case unravels, the killer is revealead, but who is it?  You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

I love Bela Lugosi.  I’ve always loved Bela Lugosi.  I mean, how can you not?  He’s Bela Lugosi!  That said, I was a little disappointed with this film.  Why?  Because while he played the head of the studio, he wasn’t in it as much as I would have liked.  That’s really about the only thing I didn’t like about this film to be perfectly honest.

What made this film really strong for me was a combination of the characters and the story.  David Manners was extremely likeable as the quick witted screenwriter who enjoyed irritating the cops.  There was no malice behind it at all.  It was almost playful the way he interacted with them, and his only goal, like theirs, was to find the killer.  The somewhat inept studio cop sort of became his comical sidekick, and together they made an irresistable team.  Bela was…well…Bela.  He kinda plays the same character most of the time, but the great thing about him is that the way he plays it, you never know if he’s actually a good guy or a bad guy.  It keeps you guessing, and in a murder mystery that only adds to the fun of the story.  Speaking of the story, they did a nice job of keeping the secret of who killed the actor right up until the end of the film.  There were numerous leads that pointed to one person or another, but you’re never quite sure who did it until the end.

This new release from Kino Lorber was mastered in HD from archival 35mm elements preserved by the library of congress and includes original color sequences hand-tinted by Gustab Brock.  It also contains audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith.

The film looks really nice.  It’s a great transfer and it’s been cleaned up well.  There are a few problems where the audio was obviously in bad shape and restored fairly well, and there was one small part where there appeared to be a second or two of film missing, because there’s a little jump forward.  Aside from that, this is about as good of a copy of this film as you’re ever likely to see.  Unfortunately, it’s missing one important thing.  Subtitles.

Every release in my opinion should come with subtitles, not only for the hearing impaired, but also for those who want to catch everything that’s being said.  Sometimes there’s low or bad audio where you may miss a key bit of dialog, or you have someone with an accent like Bela Lugosi, and the quality of the sound combined with that accent make him a bit hard to understand at times.  Subtitles would have really helped out a lot in this case.

If you love classics and are entertained by a good murder mystery, then you’ll definitely want to add The Death Kiss to your collection.  I have the Alpha Video release of the film as well, and it’s really bad compared to the Kino Lorber release, which was only to be expected since Alpha really doesn’t do any restoration at all on their releases.  If you want the best, then get the Kino release.  You won’t be sorry.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here.