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William K. Howard
Johnny Mack Brown
Chick Williams, a prohibition gangster, rejoins his mob soon after being released from prison. When a policeman is murdered during a robbery, he falls under suspicion. The gangster took Joan, a policeman's daughter, to the theater, sneaked out during the intermission to commit the crime, then used her to support his alibi. The detective squad employs its most sophisticated and barbaric techniques, including planting an undercover agent in the gang, to bring him to justice. Written by
Fiona Kelleghan <email@example.com>
Aside from wine and cheese, not all things age well. Like a gallon of milk, over time this film has started to sour--thanks mostly to changing and improving film-making. In fact, had this film been made just a year or two later, it would have been much easier to sit through. Unfortunately, this can be said of most films made in 1929. This was a transition period in which silent films were changing to sound and the technology frankly wasn't very good. Plus, since this was all new territory, the films tended to be very, very stagy--mostly because the sound men had no idea how to compensate for people as they moved away or towards microphones. This is all painfully obvious with ALIBI. Some characters are loud and easy to understand, others appear as if whispering and others have their voices fade as they move. Additionally, the film looked a lot like a play in parts as they used very long single shots with few inter-cut scenes. Plus, it was obvious some scenes were originally filmed as silent because the standard 24 frames per second (used for all sound films) made these segments seem like people were moving too quickly (as silents were filmed anywhere from 16 to 22 frames per second).
As for the plot, it's a crime drama with a lot to like and a lot to hate. I liked how, at times, the film was rather gritty--particularly in the last few minutes (the building scene at the very end was amazingly tough and memorable--one of the best death scenes in film history). Some may also like how the cops in the film pretty much ignore the Bill of Rights--and weren't above slapping a confession out or someone or threatening them with guns! Some may also be appalled, but this is truly Film Noir-like in its sensibilities. But, the plot also is really stupid at times--with some of the dumbest criminals you'll ever see in films, clichés galore and a very sappy death scene that will practically make you cringe.
Now as for the plot. For 1929, it was really quite good. If we'd had IMDb and the internet back then, a score of 7 or 8 wouldn't be unexpected. However, by today's standards, I'd have a hard time giving it anything more than a 2 or 3. So, splitting the difference, a 5 seems appropriate--for the time, a very good film but when seen today, it's terribly old fashioned and dull.
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