Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Guilty Hands

I mentioned the movie Guilty Hands back in April, saying that it wasn't available on DVD and that I didn't know when it would be airing again. It's still not on DVD, but it's on tonight at 8:00 PM as part of TCM's salute to Kay Francis in Summer Under the Stars.

The comments that I wrote back in April still hold, I think:

And then there's Guilty Hands, which ran this morning. It sounded like an interesting premise -- former district attorney Lionel Barrymore commits murder and tries to pin it on Kay Francis -- but the execution was off. That having been said, the execution was off in a way that makes parts of the movie really interesting.

A few things I didn't mention in April: Barrymore commits the murder thinking that he's doing the right thing for his daughter (Madge Evans), by protecting her from the man she thinks she loves (Alan Mowbray) but that Dad knows would be wrong for her. There's also no mystery in this movie, or at least not the traditional mystery. We know from the start who the killer is, so Hitchcock would probably classify this as suspense: will the killer get away with it? Since the movie dates to 1931, there is a reasonable chance that the killer could well get away with it, which is another thing that makes the movie worth one watch. If it were a movie made after they started enforcing the Production Code, the point of the movie would have to be seeing how the plot goes wrong. Not that you can't make a good movie along those lines; Double Indemnity springs immediately to mind. It's just that pre-Code movies allow for the possibility of something different.

Overall, I think Guilty Hands is the sort of movie that's worth one watching. Not the greatest thing by any stretch, but an enjoyable enough little curiosity, and a window to 1930s values.

No comments: