Sunday, February 01, 2015

Behind Stone Walls (1932)

Ludicrous, improbable drama, with silent screen star Priscilla Dean as a district attorney's wife involved in an affair with another man, whom she kills after he wants to end the affair. Her lawyer son confesses to the murder in order to protect her, but when the case comes to trial, the son finds himself prosecuted by his own father. After the son is sentenced to life in prison, the victim's butler sets out to blackmail the DA's wife, whom he knows is the true killer.

With its funereal pacing and total lack of cinematic imagination, the film is only of interest as one of the very few examples of Dean's sound film work. One of Universal's biggest stars of the early '20s, by the middle of that decade her career had already slumped to the point where she was working in two-reel comedies for Hal Roach. Her performance here seems unsure and rather awkward, not helped by the clumsy, preposterous script, stilted dialogue and uninspired direction, though there are still glimmers in her screen presence of the qualities that had made her a star a decade earlier.

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