Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Crime Doctor (1934)

Nils Asther in The Crime Doctor, 1934
Nils Asther in court as his character is accused of murder

In The Crime Doctor, Asther plays the clandestine lover of Karen Morley whose husband, criminologist Otto Kruger, has revenge on their affair by designing the perfect murder so that Asther is implicated.

May 11, 1934 

In the new picture at the Rialto, the perfect crime is engineered with such skill and imagination by a criminologist [Otto Kruger], who is also a jealous husband, that it becomes a fascinating thing to watch. Dan Gifford, long the scourge of careless murderers, forges each link in the homicide with such cold and deadly precision that his wife's lover [Nils Asther] is inescapably trapped in a circumstantial case. Even the victim seems to doubt his own innocence, so damning is the evidence against him. Unhappily for the cause of the perfect murder, Gifford finally confesses and shoots himself when he realizes the depth of his wife's affection for the doomed man.

Otto Kruger, who has not been so fortunate in his previous encounters with the cinema, helps "The Crime Doctor" measurably with the venomously exciting performance that he provides as the assassin. Asking no quarter from his audience by diluting the sheer reptilian quality of his behavior with sympathetic undertones, he provides a murderer who is admirably calm, cruel and intelligent.

Gifford plans the crime—contradicting his own theory that a clueless murder is impossible—when his wife [Karen Morley] informs him that she loves Eric Anderson, an author. He plants a woman in an adjoining apartment, ostensibly to gather evidence of his wife's infidelity. The woman tries to blackmail the author, as Gifford knows she will, and the criminologist graciously offers to help the man he hates. When, finally, he puts two bullets into the woman with the author's gun, he has arranged the plot so neatly that on every point of motivation, clue and evidence Anderson seems to be the killer.

When it is all over and the audience is properly lost in admiration and excitement, it turns out that the whole story is just something the criminologist has written—a piece of detective fiction. That is an unfortunate epilogue. It seems such a shame to excuse a crime so expertly managed. The players who support Mr. Kruger are entirely effective. Karen Morley is the wife, Nils Asther the lover and William Frawley a sleuth who solves the murder.

No comments:

Post a Comment