Arsene Lupin (1932)
*** (out of 4)
When John Barrymore got out of his contract with Warner, MGM wasted no time in signing him and even lesser time in putting him in a film with his brother Lionel. This was the first of five films they'd make together and their easy to spot rivalry really makes this film the charming gem that it is. An elderly detective (Lionel) is convinced that the Duke of Charmerace (John) is the infamous jewel thief known as Arsene Lupin. The detective will stop at nothing to prove his thoughts and that includes bringing in a sexy spy (Karen Morley). The story itself isn't anything ground breaking or Oscar-worthy but it is good enough to build up two nice characters and then stand back and let the actors do all the work. Fans of the brothers will certainly get a kick out of seeing the two men working together as both deliver very strong performances and they really make this film worth seeking out. What works best is the comic timing that the two men bring to the table as well as their rivalry. Each scene that the two men are in you can tell that they are trying to out act the other and this adds a charm that no two other actors could have captured. Just take a look at the sequence at the start when Lionel arrests John thinking that he's lying about being the Duke. Just watch this scene and then compare it to a later scene where John is holding Lionel captive until he can prove that he's really a cop. Morley also fits into the threesome quite well as she has an undeniable sexual tension with John and some fun comic touches with Lionel. The scene where she introduces herself to the Duke while naked in his bed is a pre-code gem. Some could argue that a stronger "story" would have helped matters and it might have but the cast doesn't even bother to speak with French accents so there's no doubt that the studio was just trying to get the two men in the same film. The ending packs a terrific punch as everything gets closed up very tightly and in a way that everyone, including the viewer, wins.
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