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 ...
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In 18th-Century Russia, the Czar, Paul, is surrounded by murderous plots and trusts only Count Pahlen. Pahlen wishes to protect his friend, the mad king, but because of the horror of the ... See full summary »
The refined Lady Isabel Carlisle, after leaving her family and enduring nearly a decade of hardships, learns that her son has fallen ill. Despite being nearly blinded as the result of an explosion, she returns home to see her son again.
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>
"Alibi" starts out promisingly enough, with a sort of sound symphony set to an expressionist montage of a man being released from prison. We hear the tread of wardens' boots, the clank of truncheons against metal bars, steel doors rasping and clanging -- it's almost like a musical number and pays homage to the new technology that had so recently hit screens and changed films for ever in the late 20s.
But then "Alibi" starts talking, and things go quickly downhill from there. This Best Picture nominee from 1929 does manage to capture a striking visual style, which is something I can't say for the film that won the second Academy Award for Best Picture, "The Broadway Melody." But it's clear that the team behind "Alibi" didn't have much more of an idea of what to do with sound than the creators of that other film did.
As with "The Broadway Melody," "Alibi" is more interesting as a blueprint for films that would spring from the same genre than it is on its own terms. In this case, that genre is the seedy gangster film that Warner Bros. would turn into an art form only a few years later.
Chester Morris received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his performance as the reformed gangster who's not really reformed, but his mugging is nearly uncomfortable to watch -- he would prove himself to be a quick learner in the sound medium and deliver a very good performance in "The Divorcée" only a year later. The abstract art direction by William Cameron Menzies was also recognized by the Academy with a nomination.
"Alibi" tricks a viewer into thinking that it's going to go to some rather interesting places that it ultimately doesn't. There's some attempts at obscuring the boundaries between the criminals and the cops that a more heavily enforced production code wouldn't allow in movies from a decade later, but it doesn't take that juxtaposition very far, and we always pretty much know whose side we're supposed to be on.
As with "The Broadway Melody," "Alibi" is interesting for people who want to see what some of the early Academy Award winning and nominated movies look like, but it's not very enjoyable for anything else.
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