1 March 2002 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Excellent "Columbo"-style caper
"Guilty As Hell" is an excellent crime drama which follows the same format later used in the "Columbo" tv series: we see a man plan a murder and carry it out, then we see him attempt to mislead the homicide detective. This film is NOT a whodunit, because we know the murderer's identity and methods from the very beginning. What matters here is the duel of wits between the killer and the sleuth. Wealthy Doctor Tindall (played by Henry Stephenson) murders his wife and sets up an elaborate "Columbo"-type alibi for himself, involving his next-door neighbours and a vacuum-tube radio of the type that was common when this movie was made (1932). One piece of business in this movie will be obscure for modern viewers, so (without spoiling anything, and to help you follow what's happening) I'll explain that old-fashioned radios didn't activate until several seconds after they were switched on, because they needed time for the valves to warm up. As part of his murder scheme, Dr Tindall also invents a new flavour of chewing-gum; what he does with it will surprise you.
The chief detective is well-played by Victor McLaglen, and his rival is Edmund Lowe. These two actors played friendly adversaries in many films (going back to "What Price Glory?" in silent days) and their rivalry here is a pleasure to watch. Instead of teaming up to solve the murder, they work against each other.
I'll give "Guilty As Hell" seven and a half points out of 10 ... or 8 points if you like unconventional crime stories.