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14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Murder in a planetarium!

Author: cinema_universe from NYC & Cherry Grove
14 July 2003

The film's title implies that death strikes from afar, and in a clever way, it does...

This low-budget little whodunit will NEVER be aired on TV, so you will have to find a rental, or more likely, buy a copy to see how this ingenious little murder is worked out.

I won't spoil it for anyone by telling you that the victim is in the audience of a planetarium, and naturally-- so is the murderer! The police are called in, and the entire story is acted out pretty much on that one set.

Filmed on one of the lowest budgets possible, "Death From A Distance" will still keep you watching, and guessing, right to the surprise ending.

Not bad, to say the least. To B-movie mystery buffs, I say: Buy it, if you can find it, and enjoy.

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13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Amusingly Good Period Piece from Invincible Films

Author: Ralph Michael Stein ( from New York, N.Y.
5 April 2004

Marred on a DVD transfer by a poor soundtrack that makes some dialogue unintelligible, "Death from a Distance" is a 1935 B crime story that has some good acting along with the inevitable cliches that reflect the times.

A doctor is shot to death during a planetarium lecture. The killer is in the room and the audience is there when the cops arrive, a wisecracking homicide lieutenant in charge. A pretty gal reporter tangles with the cop and her investigative skills are equal to her blatant flirting.

In 71 minutes the story moves by small leaps and not great bounds to a clever uncovering of the killer. Some potted astronomical theory is central to solving the case.

Every stereotype from that era is present: smart detective and dumb as dishwater detective, hardboiled city room editor and ambitious female reporter, gentle Viennese scientist and the "Hindu," a man with a past. And there's more.

This movie won't make either the AMC or TCM channels, not in a century of retrospectives. It's available for as little as $5.99 and as a glance backwards into the time when the Hollywood studio giants co-existed with producers of second-rate features, "Death from a Distance" is a minor treat. But it's a treat nonetheless.

6/10 (for its genre and period).

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Not a Bad Planetarium Movie

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
22 October 2007

The setting is the real central figure in this film. A murder is committed during a planetarium show held for a group of well known scientists. A hard boiled detective and an impulsive female reporter set out to solve the crime. Actually, she just seems to get in the way and must be regularly lectured by the big guy. The problem is that no one has the ability to have committed the crime. A series of diversions and set ups take place, trying to lure the real criminal out. There are professional jealousies at work which will hopefully result in an Achilles' heel. The story is slow and drawn out and the characters are often silly and stereotypical. Still, I found myself watching it carefully because I wanted to know how the murder was committed. if your not too fussy and don't mind a period piece, it's not too bad.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Killer from Space?

Author: dbborroughs from Glen Cove, New York
25 April 2004

During a lecture at a planetarium one of the people in the audience is killed. The police are called and with the help of, or possibly despite the interference of a female reporter the killer is eventually unmasked.

If nothing else this film has a unique location which is played up a great deal as the film milks it for all its worth. What is worth is plenty since this is a snappy mystery with great dialog and a decent mystery. The acting is good and the cast is made up of troopers who you've probably seen in countless other films.

This is one of those movie that's worth seeking out and worth buying. Alpha Video is putting it out shortly in a cheap edition and I'll be picking up copies for friends who like the really good mysteries. Keep an eye on Amazon, you won't be disappointed.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A solid piece of work from 'Poverty Row'

Author: binapiraeus from Greece
5 February 2014

"Death from a Distance" (which in the end, as we almost suspected, proves a QUITE appropriate title) may be no masterpiece of mystery, but it's a very solid crime puzzle which, like so often in the 30s, teams a cop with a girl reporter to solve the murder.

The performances, especially by Lola Lane as the cheeky, fresh young reporter, are not at all bad: quite convincing, and containing a good dose of humor! Not that the murder case isn't handled seriously: the police methods are portrayed in a realistic way - while, on the other 'side', the newsroom's atmosphere with all its male and female news hounds, who are sometimes nerve-racking, sometimes PRETTY helpful for the cops, is once again depicted in a wonderfully authentic way.

But the most stunning feature of this particular movie that otherwise would be one of many average 30s' murder mysteries are the settings of the murder scene: here we actually get to see how a planetarium of the 1930s looked like and worked - certainly a kind of time document today...

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Mystery Misfire

Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
8 May 2009

"A murder is committed at the Forest Park Planetarium during a lecture by the celebrated Astronomer, Professor Ernst Einfeld (Lee Kohlmar). The fatal shot is fired in semi-darkness while a distinguished audience observes the stars projected on the dome above them. A hardboiled homicide detective (Russell Hopton) trades verbal jabs with a wisecracking gal reporter (Lola Lane) as they attempt to unravel the mysterious killing," according to the DVD sleeve's synopsis. In a very dull manner.

The "gal reporter" character played by Lola Lane was, in part, writer Jerry Siegel's inspiration for Superman's Girl Friend, "Lois Lane"; however, Ms. Lane's later "Torchy Blane" characterization is a more accurate reference point. Perhaps, "Death from a Distance is most notable as featuring the penultimate performance of George F. Marion (as Jim Gray), who so memorably played the father of Pauline Lord (1921), Blanche Sweet (1923), and Greta Garbo (1930) in Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie".

*** Death from a Distance (9/17/35) Frank Strayer ~ Russell Hopton, Lola Lane, George F. Marion

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Has its moments!

Author: JohnHowardReid
7 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Frank Strayer's direction here is a grade higher than his usual humdrum level. As usual however, he eschews reverse angles, but on this occasion he has gone easy on close-ups. Most of the scenes are handled in rather long takes, but the camera-work has more movement here than is the director's norm. The movie also exhibits some typical trademarks of Invincible Pictures. Most of the action is confined to the one set, although it is well designed and large enough to accommodate a rather extensive cast of character players and extras. As usual, there is no background music at all except under the opening and end credits. Fortunately, this lack is skilfully disguised by the brisk pace of the plot. The cast too is not without interest, although the identity of the killer is pretty obvious. All told, however, the script is more accomplished than then usual Invincible effort, thanks not so much to its routine plot but to some bright, crisp dialogue, expertly delivered here by Russell Hopton and Lola Lane. George Marion must be included in our praises too. In fact his presence alone is worth at least half the price of the DVD.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

a complicated plot but in the end satisfying

Author: kidboots from Australia
17 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Lola Lane was a very versatile actress. She was one of the Lane sisters and came to films in the first rush of early sound musicals. Unfortunately the next year musicals were out but Lola stayed and started her acting apprenticeship in programmers. Before she was "discovered" again as one of the "Four Daughters" (1939)(the wise- cracking one) she had spent the 30s building up a respectable career in films like "Death From a Distance", in which she played sassy reporter Kay Palmer (curiously devoid of much make-up). I, also like another reviewer, felt the plot was too complicated.

A renowned scientist, Professor Ernst Einfield (Lee Kohlmar) an eccentric genius, is delivering a lecture to a select audience at the Forest Park Planetarium (props were borrowed from the set of "The Invisible Ray"). A gunshot is heard in the darkness and when the lights go on, Dr. Stone, a drugs manufacturer, is found dead. At first no one can agree where the shot was fired from but it is decided it had come from the back of the room.

"OK sister -what's your name" - "If I'm your sister, you know it already"!!! Kay Palmer (Lola Lane), a reporter who is covering the lecture, goes rushing from the room hoping to get a scoop. Because of an altercation with Detective Mallory (Russell Hopton), when she is finally able to phone in her story, she blasts the police's (and Mallory's) inefficiency. There are many suspects - Langsdale (Wheeler Oakman) was the doctor's personal secretary but he confesses he has been in prison for assault and was only released a week ago. Ahmed (John Davidson) a suspicious type who claims he didn't know Dr. Stone but in reality came there to kill him. There is also John Gray (George Marion Snr, who was quite good as the trusting father in Greta Garbo's "Anna Christie" (1930)) a watchman who has been employed there over 10 years.

"Well, well, well, together again. It must be old home - icide week". Meanwhile relations between the press and the police are at an all time low. There have been a few editorials by Kay ridiculing the police. When she finds out that Professor Einfield is going to go into a trance and name the killer, she gets a front page story, realising only too late that the killer will also read it. The film is wrapped up in a novel way. Einfield is found murdered - only he isn't!!! When everyone is out of the room Mallory explains to Kay (they are now friends) that the hoax was done to shake up the real killer. Later on, to everyone's amazement, walking out of the darkness, the "corpse" makes a surprise re-appearance. The killer then breaks down and confesses ("it's lies, it's all lies I tell you") -his histrionics at the end are all explained.

There is quite a lot of witty dialogue going back and forth between Kay and Mallory.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Location, location

Author: Al Westerfield from United States
26 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Death from a distance is dominated by two very impressive sets: the planetarium and observatory. The long shot intimates this takes place at the Griffith Observatory. However, the front doors to the Griffith planetarium don't match. Further, the structure and telescope in the observatory don't either. Since there are no similar sites in southern California, I must conclude they were studio sets. Invincible Pictures were distributed by Chesterfield, the latter being famous for renting high class sets at major studios. The conclusion seems to be that Invincible did, too. It would be interesting to find out which film the sets were designed for.

For a poverty row mystery the film is well above average with procedurals closer to actual police work. The Charlie Chan gathering climax is handled better than any Chan film. The suspects include several personal favorites: Robert Fraser, the boss villain in many a western and plantation owner in White Zombie; and Wheeler Oakman, the "henchman's henchman" in dozens of B films, especially The Phantom Empire.

This is a good mystery of its type, one worth an hour of your time.

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Creaky murder mystery

Author: gridoon2016
6 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My opinion is almost certainly influenced by the picture and especially the sound quality of the DVD print I saw (let's just say that at least 30% of the dialogue is hard to hear), but although I'm a big fan of this genre, I didn't really care for this movie. Many of the characters are quite hard to tell apart, and it doesn't help that they're played by a cast of complete strangers to all but the most fanatic early-1930s film buffs. To be honest, the only member of the cast I recognized was Lola Lane, who plays the stereotypical "nosy" reporter; though you can see sparks of the "Torchy Blane" personality (whom Lane actually played once herself a few years later), her character remains clueless throughout the film as the male detective figures out everything about the case. All in all, "Death From A Distance" is a long, dull 70 minutes. *1/2 out of 4.

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