Alibi (1929)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5

USA, 1929Screenplay and titles by , , based on the play by , , Elaine S. CarringtonCinematography by .   Produced by Music by Production Design by Costume Design by .   Film Editing by

As good an example of early sound films that have not aged well as ever there was.  Chester Morris is terrific as a low-level hood who is released from jail and goes back to running with the gang that got him thrown in prison in the first place. A robbery takes place not long after his release and it gets a policeman killed, and Morris is arrested on suspicion of having gone back to his criminal ways. He tells the authorities that he was actually enjoying a night of theatre with his girlfriend when the event occurred, and she, a rebellious young woman whose cop father is upset at her having taken up with this ne’er-do-weller, backs him up because she knows that her man has gone straight. Has he reformed, or is she just tricking herself because of her feelings of love for him? She delivers a few very impassioned lectures about police brutality before finding out more about her guy than she originally knew and what you thought was a black and white tale of cops and robbers ends up being a lot grayer. The new technology of synchronized sound is very awkwardly applied in the dawning days of talkies, you can actually see the actors waiting to say their lines and make sure they are heard, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing a hell of a job with what are otherwise pretty familiar characterizations. The stylish art deco production design really hits its stride by the end, and there’s a stunt in the conclusion that is filmed using a fabulous optical illusion in the film’s closing scene.

Academy Award Nominations:   Best Picture; Best Actor (Chester Morris); Best Art Direction

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