Not a serial, not a series - it’s a one-off, made in 1932 for a budget of $19.32.
Here’s another look at that background, enhanced to bring out the surreal details:
It’s a murder-mystery movie set on a murder-mystery movie set. After the obnoxious, rakish, womanizing actor has been bumped off while filming a death scene with a DEATH KISS that’s the KISS OF DEATH, hence the name I suppose, we got to the office of the studio head. I have no idea how they could afford this:
But it’s cool. You expect the movie to turn into “Metropolis.” Keep in mind it’s 1932 - this shows how quickly modernism took hold.
Looks like the Art-Carney-style fellow on the left is smoking an enormous cigar:
But he’s not.
For some reason the actor on the left was known as “Spec.”
Born Walter, he’s listed as Spec, or Speck. Spec had a variety of interesting roles, “Freckled Dice Game Participant” and “Man Getting Lemon Pie Shampoo,” “Bumpkin” and “Jones, the Stutterer” among them. He made 196 movies, the last being “Convoy” in 1978. (He was “18 Wheel Eddie.”)
The hero of the movie is a screenwriter who decide to solve the crime and clear the name of the lady he loves:
Human beings look damned odd sometimes, don’t they?
Here's your the more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same moment:
If we wandered into a store in 1932, most of the brand names would have been different. We could tell which was soap and which was soup, of course, but the old comforting faves would be absent.
Except the gin! Pretty sure this is the old Gordon's bottle:
Of course the mystery is solved in a short period of time by the utter amateur. As with all movies from this period, this one gets a mercifully nice rating from the imdb comments; it's as if they love the period so much they can't recognize rote crap when they see it. Oh, the hero's breezy, but the comic relief is excruciating, the mystery dull, the conclusion contrived, amd the whole affair just looks like something slapped together to put butts in the seats and sell them JuJus. They all are, yes, but you don't have to defend every product of the 30s out of fear someone will point to the lesser artifacts and say Ha ha! Your interest in the past is misguided.
In the end, everyone's happy. Even Dracula:
There's a tale, too: the star of the film was in Dracula with Lugosi the same year. Said he never watched the movie. Didn't like that type of film. Was sick of the fame it brought. Quit pictures and spent the rest of his life writing and painting.
Lugosi has about 4 minutes screen time in the film, so anyone who rented "Kiss of Death" starring Bela Lugosi! expecting . . . oh, I don't know, campy vampire thirties-style "chills" was sorely disappointed. This is a murder comedy. In forty years they would have cast Gene Wilder and Terri Garr in the main roles, and it would have actually been funny.
Postscript: Perusing the credits, one name stuck out. It was one of those roles with no lines or names or action, and those are often impossible to pick out, especially if you’re staring at a beaten print. But this one had hope: Extra Sitting on Curb. Since most of the movie takes place indoors, I figured he might be easy to find. Not easy, but not impossible:
You can’t recognize him from this, I know, but if we could invent a time machine, go back to the set, and ask him to speak, you’d recognize him. This was his first movie. His last would continue a four-decade job providing the voice . . . for this fellow. And now you know - the rest of the story.