This is a very entertaining early-sound film. From the opening credits, superimposed over a bobbing, ringing offshore buoy, the film maintains a feeling of mystery. The plot is very clever, and keeps you off-guard. And it has that other-worldly feeling that so many early talkies seem to have now. The technical limitations of that time actually add to movies like this, I think, as they give that distant feeling, as if you're looking into another universe. They say the past is a different country, and maybe that's right. It sure is fun peering into that different time and place.
The film boasts some entertaining actors. My favorite is Lowell Sherman, who was good in everything he did. As an actor, he was the world-weary type. The guy who has seen it all, but still finds life kind of amusing. He reminds me of John Barrymore, but without the burden of the profile. He always seems to be having a good time, and livens up the proceedings. He was great in the 1932 "What Price Hollywood?," as the burned-out movie director. He was also a pretty good film director in real life, and nurtured some important careers. He directed Mae West and Cary Grant in "She Done Him Wrong," in 1933, followed by Katharine Hepburn in "Morning Glory," 1933, "Born To Be Bad," 1934, with Grant and Loretta Young, and a number of others. He was the original director for the 1935 Miriam Hopkins' "Becky Sharp," but died during production, and was replaced by Rouben Mamoulian. Many think that if he'd lived longer, he'd be considered one of the top directors of that time. And even if he is remembered only for his acting, he has a secure place in film history.
Betty Compson was a big silent star, but her career was kind of tapering off at this point. She is still pretty good in the film, and is fun to watch. Hugh Trevor, the young romantic lead, had a short career at RKO at that time, and was a standard hero type, but not bad. He died just a few years after making this movie. I like Ivan Lebedeff, who often played phony European-nobility types. He sometimes played it nasty, but was often a comic character. The gigolo/phony prince, etc. He was hilarious as such a type in Jean Harlow's "Blonde Bombshell," in 1933, making fun of those real-life European princes who seemed to specialize in marrying Hollywood royalty- actresses like Gloria Swanson and Constance Bennett. He played the part very well.
The sets in the film are fun- just the creepy kinds of things you'd expect in an "old dark house" kind of place. Somehow these kinds of places exist only in the movies. At least, I've never seen such a fogbound place in my travels. But that's fine- "only in the movies" is OK in my book.
This film may have shown up on TCM, but it isn't well known, or available to any great extant. I saw it years ago on a local TV channel in Baltimore (Channel 13 all-night movies, which were usually the C & C TV- RKO films- rather ragged and blurry prints, but lots of fun). I bought a DVD copy from a collector, and that's what I have now. Most of these early- sound films don't have big audiences, but it would be nice to have this for sale somewhere. Some other early films are showing up on low-priced DVDs, so perhaps this one will too. It isn't a great classic, but it is worth watching, and is lots of fun.
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