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  • As someone else mentioned this police procedural is done "Columbo style". In other words, you see the murder committed up front at the very beginning of the film and see how the murderer covers his tracks and even who he frames. The interesting part is seeing how Detective Capt. T.R. McKinley (Victor McLaglen) and reporter Russell Kirk (Edmund Lowe) solve the case. McLaglen and Lowe did a series of buddy pictures in the early 30's first at Fox and then at Paramount. This is one of the Paramount entries. As usual, the two claim to be friends but never cease to antagonize each other. In this case, reporter Kirk feels like he has the right to waltz into McKinley's office and interfere in his cases any time he feels like it because his stories got McKinley noticed and therefore promoted. During the first half of the film you'll most likely wish the murderer had strangled Kirk too, because he behaves in a most despicable manner - he's just a hardboiled unlikable guy. For example, at the crime scene he is standing over the corpse, smoking, sprinkling his cigarette ashes on her, and discussing how he doesn't care for the way the dead woman is dressed - he prefers women in nightgowns to women in pajamas. The Ick Factor is incredible. He later shows a softer side after he falls for the sister of the man who is framed for the murder.

    Claire Dodd shows up as the murder victim in about five seconds of screen time. If you watch many precodes, in this film you finally get to see what you've probably wanted to see in any of those films in which she usually plays a femme fatale with no conscience - someone strangling the life out of her. Highly recommended for both fans of precode cinema and good old crime films.
  • "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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film is a neat little mystery. Its a well made Hollywood entertainment that uses every trick you can think of to draw you in and hold your attention.

    The plot has a wealthy doctor killing his wife and framing a neighbor for the crime. We know he did it and we watch as he sets everything up for the frame to work (as has been aptly pointed out like an episode of Columbo). Coming to investigate is police detective Victor McLaglen and his friend and frequent rival Edmund Lowe who is a reporter. The pair at first think things are clear cut but soon Lowe, thanks to the dead man's sister, begins to see they made a terrible mistake.

    Good mystery is lifted up a couple of notches thanks to the two leads whose constant bickering and friendly kidding add to the proceedings. Honestly the pair is what makes this film a must see. The film is nothing is not a precursor to todays buddy films.

    A film to search out.
  • Pre-Code Hollywood is a gift that just keeps giving; and the latest neglected gem to come my way is this cracking little comedy-thriller in which perennial sparring partners Victor McLaglen and Edmund Lowe play a detective and a reporter, the former seemingly impotent to prevent the latter from forever implausibly barging into his office and into crime scenes with impunity and in the process constantly winding him up.

    Based on a play by Daniel N. Rubin called "Riddle Me This", the fun is as fast and as furious as Lowe repeatedly gets McLaglen. There's plenty of witty talk delivered by a dream supporting cast, while director Erle C. Kenton gives cameraman Karl Struss his head with some truly incredible camerawork, including close close-ups that underline key moments as if the high voltage acting hasn't already done it's bit to ensure it has your attention.

    Enthusiastically recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Generally speaking, it's true that film noir is most often associated with crime. But not all—indeed not even the majority—of police and detective dramas can justifiably be classified as noir (even though DVD distributors assume this is invariably the case). Take a movie like Guilty as Hell (1932), which certainly has a noirish title and a most promising poster. It starts off intriguingly too. In fact the opening sequence in which nice old Henry Stephenson (of all people) not only calmly murders his wife but then methodically arranges the evidence to convict her lover instead, is one of the most chillingly noirish I've ever seen. After this episode, however, the movie not only reverts with a vengeance to the original stage play, but becomes somewhat static, somewhat more conventional and somewhat less interesting.

    The stage play, Riddle Me This by Daniel N. Rubin opened on Broadway at the John Golden on February 25, 1932 and ran a most satisfactory 100 performances. Frank Craven both directed and starred as Kirk, Robert Burton was Duffy, Robert Lowes (Frank Marsh), Erin O'Brien Moore (his sister), Thomas Mitchell (McKinley), and Charles Richman (Dr Tindal).

    Starting with What Price Glory? in 1926 and ending with Call Out the Marines! in 1942, Edmund Lowe and Victor McLaglen partnered each other in ten features of which this is the fifth. Much as I would have preferred Frank Craven and Thomas Mitchell, we have to put up with an adequately obnoxious Lowe and an almost equally inadequate, camera-hogging McLaglen instead.

    Fortunately, photographer Karl Struss often comes to the film's rescue. Struss had an excellent working relationship with director Kenton, who was only too pleased to allow Struss to perform whatever miracles he liked to give the film distinction and "class". The chilling opening sequence is most effectively photographed and cut. And there are other sequences too (the visit to the jail), in which Struss' mind-blowing lighting effects carry the picture. Struss's efforts to vary the monotony of the Lowe-McLaglen scenes by having the actors bob their heads straight into the camera is more obtrusive but certainly inventive. Despite Struss' efforts, however, 80 minutes of continuous Lowe-Mclaglen wrangling does tend to be rather wearying. But finally it all ends much as you might expect. True, the plot's resolution is not the neatest, but by that stage, you are past caring. You just want all the shouting to cease and that welcome The End title finally flash on the screen.

    Stephenson sneaks off with the movie's acting honors (he has by far the best part and is given some harrowing "business"), but Fred Kelsey's eager Detective Duffy is not far behind, while Adrienne Ames seems certainly the goods as the attractive heroine. It's also a pleasure to see and hear Elizabeth Patterson as the witness/landlady.