Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Murder! (1930)

Beefing on Hitchcock

An actress Diana is discovered, her clothing covered in blood, in a daze beside the dead body of another actress. After long and entertaining jury deliberations, Diana is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Sir John, a juror on the case and a famous actor-manager, feels a mistake has been made and sets out to investigate and find the real killer. Evidence starts to point to another actor in the company, and Sir John devises a trap to snare the killer.

Murder! is another great step in Alfred Hitchcock's film catalogue, giving us a well-written and well-acted murder mystery that commands your attention from start to finish. The story is nicely revealed, keeping the viewer somewhat in the dark until the moment the hero discovers the truth, and still manages to develop some suspense from then on.

There are some pretty bad editing cuts, but nothing atypical for 1930. A few can't help but jump out at you, mostly due to the sudden cut in the audio. Considering the use of sound was still really early, I can't hold that against the film... but it also makes me wonder how much better and more known the movie would be if the transitions had been smoother. Perhaps Criterion will get a hold of it someday and do some of their fantastic restorations.

One ground-breaking fact: Murder! was the first motion picture to include a characters thoughts as part of the soundtrack. As ADR (dubbing) was yet to exist at this point, the lines had been prerecorded and played live while filming, an orchestra playing from behind a wall to provide the music to the soundtrack. It was probably innovative things like this that eventually forced the dubbing process to be created.

As a whole, the movie is great and quite entertaining. It moves a bit slow at times, but from a technological stand-point, it's a must-see.

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