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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Death Kiss [Blu-ray]

 

(Edwin L. Marin, 1932)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: K.B.S. Productions Inc.

Video: Kino Lorber

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:11:10.266

Disc Size: 21,373,889,867 bytes

Feature Size: 20,631,017,472 bytes

Video Bitrate: 32.98 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 14th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1930 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1930 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1581 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1581 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

None

 

Extras:

• Commentary by Richard Harland Smith

• White Zombie Trailer (2:46)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Reuniting three of the stars of Universal's Dracula (released the previous year), this low budget production was, on the surface, a blatant attempt to capitalize on the a major Hollywood hit. But THE DEATH KISS is anything but a cheap knock-off. A Pre-Code murder mystery that plays out on the soundstages, screening rooms, and dressing rooms of the fictitious Tonart Studios, the film offers modern viewers a precious glimpse at the workings of a Poverty Row Studio during the Great Depression. Bela Lugosi stars as the head of a struggling studio, who tries to contain a scandal after an actor is killed during the making of a film. While the police investigate the deepening mysteries within the studio, a quick-witted screenwriter (David Manners) decides to solve the crime himself, in order to clear the picture's leading lady (Adrienne Ames) from suspicion.

***

While Tonart Studios is filming a gangster movie, one of the actors is killed in a shooting accident. After several other incidents occur, police begin to think of sabotage. Their list of suspects includes the studio chief (Alexander Carr), his manager (Bela Lugosi), the director of the film (Edward Van Sloan) and an actress (Adrienne Ames)

 

 

The Film:

Edwin L. Marin's The Death Kiss (1932) appears to be a return to Transylvanian terror -- especially since Lugosi was joined in the cast by two other Dracula principals: David Manners and Edward Van Sloan. The title and the casting seem to indicate that Lugosi would once again be creeping into sleeping maidens' boudoirs and preying on their innocence. But he doesn't. The Death Kiss is full of surprises, and this is just one way in which the film toys with the audience's expectations. Not just another vampire movie, this low-budget production is actually a whodunit mystery, cleverly set on the soundstages of a financially strapped movie studio.

The film's title is also the name of the film-within-the-film, during the making of which the leading man, Myles Brent (Edmund Burns), is fatally shot with live ammunition instead of blanks. Detective Sheehan (John Wray) descends on the scene and tramps through the studio giving various suspects the scattershot third degree, without any real clue as to how to solve the mystery. Lugosi plays Joseph Steiner, the Tonart Studios manager who tries to keep a lid on the scandal and keep the studio running amid the suspicions, rumors and threat of additional fatalities. Van Sloan (who was the wizened vampire-hunter in
Dracula) is the wild-eyed director trying to finish his cursed film. Manners leads the cast as Franklyn Drew, a sharp-tongued scenarist who teases the bumbling detective with his superior knowledge and urbane wit.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Pre-Code and vintage mystery fans may enjoy The Death Kiss on Blu-ray from Kino.  The image quality has inherent production limitations, but the 1080P seems to do as good a job as one could hope for. There are still scratches and surface marks throughout. The quality varies but I didn't find this overly distracting. Contrast is adept and there is some textured grain. Overall filled with minor imperfections but nothing this reviewer was dismissive of. This Blu-ray manages to present a decent viewing experience from a very old film and the HD disc is advertised as a '35mm archival restoration'.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track at 1930 kbps has plenty of background hiss. This, and other, weaknesses (fidelity fluctuations, and one or two dropouts) are expected from a film of this age. The 'theme' music is quite addictive. For the most part, the dialogue is easily discernable but it remains in the confines of the production limitations. There are no subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Kino include an audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith (of Video Watchdog Magazine). He covers quite a lot of historical detail with a lot of interesting facts. I like his pace and what he tends to focus on - some may remember him from the commentary on The Devil Bat. There is also a trailer for White Zombie.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Death Kiss is a cute pre-code mystery. It has all the wonderful period fashion and architecture and the colorization addition in the conclusion makes it stand-out somewhat. Bela is not a big part of the proceedings but his presence adds some atmosphere. The Blu-ray quality is subject to the source condition but still provides a pleasing 1080P presentation - if you consider the age - coming up to 83 years old! The commentary adds further value and fans of this genre of vintage film will appreciate this package although it does seem pricey. 

Gary Tooze

October 24th, 2014

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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