20 Shots: Murder At The Vanities (1934)

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Glenn Kenny has already weighed in on the sublime strangeness that is Murder At The Vanities (part of Universal’s new Pre-Code Hollywood Collection). For me it reinforces the powerful attraction of even middling movies from this period. Despite its sometimes ham-handed acting (Carl Brisson, leading man?), a few terrible songs, and paint-by-numbers murder mystery plot, the film got under my skin. It’s overloaded with sleek deco imagery, the dialog is often pointed and funny, and tough guy mugs Victor McLagen and Jack Oakie prove to be great foils. I also have a soft spot for backstage stories and this one has a lot of enjoyably choreographed bustle. And it has Duke Ellington!

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