Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Special agent Steve Emerson (Warren William) is riding a wave of good publicity for his crimebusting activities, but his boss has decided that his high profile has become a liability, so he's let go, but he steps immediately into a new gig as an insurance investigator. His first case is a doozy—the Count de Grissac (John Halliday), his niece Lorraine (Virginia Bruce) and his cousin M. Bouchet (Monty Wooley) are found tied up in their Manhattan hotel, their valuable family necklace stolen. But it turns out that it was only a paste substitute which was taken; the real one was in a hotel safe. Still, Emerson discovers the calling card of the notorious jewel thief Arsène Lupin at the scene of the crime. Lupin is presumed dead, but Emerson decides that whoever the thief is will come back when he realizes the jewels are fake, so he accompanies the de Grissac clan back to Paris where Lorraine's lover René Ferrand (Melvyn Douglas, pictured with Bruce) joins them. We soon discover that Ferrand is actually Arsène Lupin, alive and no longer thieving, and a bit irritated that someone is besmirching his name. When the real jewels are stolen and a well-known underworld fence is found dead, and signs point to Lupin as the culprit, Ferrand begins his own investigation to help Emerson. But what if Emerson himself is the guilty party?

An unoffical sequel to a 1932 film with John Barrymore, this is a fairly interesting variation on the trope of the criminal-gone-good who helps the cops (see also The Saint, Boston Blackie, etc.), enlivened considerably by the charming central trio of Douglas, Williams and Bruce, and by the ambiguity, kept going until the final scene, of whether Emerson is really the thief, or at least working for him. A scene near the end when the police search everyone in the room for the jewels, and those who have the jewels find clever ways of passing them along and away from the cops, is quite fun. Woolley and Halliday don't have a lot to do, but it's nice seeing them. Fine support is given by Nat Pendleton as a former crook buddy of Lupin's and George Zucco as the inspector. Prolific character actor Ian Wolfe has a small role credited as Ien Wulf. Overall, a nice light-hearted mystery. [TCM]

No comments: