15 March 2011 | jimjo1216
Forensic science in 1933
FROM HEADQUARTERS (1933) is a very interesting movie about a police investigation into a murder. The action takes place entirely within police headquarters, as cops interview suspects and scientists analyze evidence.
The movie is short and sweet (just over one hour long), filled with an entertaining cast of characters (ranging from policemen to news reporters to bail bondsmen), and quite enjoyable. It offers a fascinating look into the cutting-edge forensics of the day (how science was used to solve crimes). The movie shows how fingerprints are obtained and matched up. It mentions blood testing and autopsies. And there's a neat look at ballistic analysis (comparing marks on fired bullets).
George Brent, Eugene Palette, and Henry O'Neill play the police investigating a murder case. They parade in a string of the dead man's associates and each offers their piece to the puzzle of what turns out to be a very eventful night for the deceased. Each successive suspect's story is shown in a short point-of-view flashback, picking up where the last witness left off. The "whodunit" aspect is a little convoluted, but as the day goes on, developments in the lab shed new light on the case.
Edward Ellis (THE THIN MAN) plays the lead scientist, who relishes each breakthrough in the "lovely murder". It seems like Warner Bros. wanted to show theatergoers some of the cool new forensic strategies and technologies, and even though science has come a long way since 1933, it's still an interesting look back in history.
FROM HEADQUARTERS is not a top-shelf murder mystery or police procedural, but it's quick and fun, with some racy pre-Code material, a lighthearted sense of the macabre, and a unique historical value.
Directed by William Dieterle (THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR - 1936, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME - 1939) and also featuring Hugh Herbert, Robert Barrat, and the lovely Margaret Lindsay.