Death At Broadcasting House (1934) 720p

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Death At Broadcasting House (1934) - Movie Poster
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Run Time:
75 min
IMDB Rating:
6.0 / 10 
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Directors: Reginald Denham [Director] ,

Movie Description:
A radio actor is murdered live on air. Enter Detective Inspector Gregory suspicious of both cast and crew. The victim it's discovered had many enemies. The hunt to unmask the killer quickly ensues. Enjoyable romp through pre-war 1930's BBC Broadcasting House and London with a flavour here and there of the music, fashion and architecture of the times.


  • Death At Broadcasting House (1934) - Movie Scene 1
  • Death At Broadcasting House (1934) - Movie Scene 2
  • Death At Broadcasting House (1934) - Movie Scene 1

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Technically Sound And Visually Interesting Mystery, But Paper-Thin Characters

While dozens of people go about their jobs of getting news and entertainment out on the BBC -- including a chorus of dancers in elaborate costumes -- a minor actor is being rehearsed for a role in an original crime drama. His screams as he is strangled -- in the role -- are not satisfactory. However, during the performance, he gives a much better performance. That's because he is strangled and his corpse left by the microphone.

It's a production with a fancy background, and a cast that includes several well-known broadcasters and performers of the era. Ian Hunter is the Scotland Yard inspector who investigates -- in contrast to American movies, in which it's a private citizen or detective, or a government investigator with a chip on his shoulder who solves the case, in Britain in this era, it was someone more official and with less personality quirks. Among the suspects are Austin Trevor, Val Gielgud (who wrote the book this movie is based on) and Jack Hawkins.

It's directed for efficiency by Reginald Denham, and the cinematographer is Gunther Krampf. Although he is best remembered for his impressionist work for Pabst, he lights the Art Moderne sets here brightly and flatly. Still, although the mystery is well done and the method used to identify the murderer sound good, I thought there was little of humanity or interesting characters in the movie.

"Murder Immaculate"

"Please!!....can't you put more feeling into your death scene"!! - andunfortunately for Parsons, he puts too much feeling into it, he ismurdered!!

A pristine print makes this an enjoyable view - not only is there amurder but it must have been an interesting peek for audiences at theworkings etc of the BBC - there's even a variety show with a bevy ofbeautiful, talented chorus girls (going through their routine in aprofessional way). The lovely Eve Becke shows she had a way with asong but the highlight for me is the beautiful Elisabeth Welch singing thesultry "Lazy Lady" with all the muscians thoroughly enjoying theperformance.

The murder investigation plays out among the beautiful Art Deco settingsof Broadcasting House, led by a very believable performance from IanHunter as Det. Insp. Gregory (Hunter was so good in British movies, it'sonly when he went to Hollywood, he turned stodgy and boring). The restof the cast lived up to the way audiences of the time probably felt theyspoke and behaved - very toffy, elocution lesson stuff. Val Gielgud,writer of the original book and screen play, gave himself a plum role asJulian Caird, the play's ("Murder Immaculate") producer and hisperformance shows why he spent many years as BBC's Head of Soundand Drama but didn't venture in front of the camera too often.

The victim, Parsons, was a professional blackmailer and an interestingplot twist was having the leading man, Leopold Dryden as being veryunlikable and slipping out of the recording studio at around the time ofthe murder. Played fittingly by Austin Trevor who was the first actor toportray Hercule Poirot on film. Rounding out the cast was Peter Haddonwho excelled in "silly ass" types and provided the movie with it'ssupposed humour as a top hatted gent looking for an alibi!! Jack Hawkinsat the beginning of his career, he's Bert Evans, in a sizable part one ofthe actors and someone who has a crush on the leading lady andHenry Kendall as the playwright, with wit as dry as crisp toast and alsowith a very healthy yen for Mrs. Dryden (a pretty and dewy eyed MaryNewland). And then there's Mrs. Dryden - has she anything to hide in herpast? Just why is she so upset when Gregory finds an old playbill!!

Satisfying and worthwhile

This is pretty fascinating stuff on a number of levels: the then visualisation of radio broadcasting for cinema audiences, the then limitations of radio and cinema technology, a frank and snappy dialogue, some wonderful art deco furniture and sets, the great Elizabeth Welch singing, and an all too brief song from Eve Becke and whichever band Percival Mackay was leading at the time. And the BBC for once apparently received no complaints after twenty five million people had listened to a live radio strangulation. Probably Lord Reith would have at least apologised.

A radio actor is murdered during a live broadcast, the cast and crew are therefore suspect – and the hunt by Detective Inspector Ian Hunter is soon on for the culprit in a short and swift film. The perceived interiors of Broadcasting House looked flimsier than the acting but the unmasking of the dastard involved a cast-iron alibi being broken. It's one thing knowing that back then BBC radio newsreaders were booted and suited or in full evening gowns with no one to see them but another to have scantily-clad showgirls performing mainly for the edification of the microphones. Maybe it's a BBC trait! There's a young heavily eye-shadowed Jack Hawkins in here, Henry Kendall was as urbane as ever, and Donald Wolfit had a small - but vital - part in one of his first films. Many iconic poses were struck with many nice scenes. What a pity all BBC broadcasts weren't preserved on steel tape, never mind about for the Empire but for the broadcastless future generations - over the years many BBC radio shows survived only on transcription discs meant for foreign consumption.

If I wanted to be awkward I could add that I personally think genuine talent and honest morality have both been strangled to death at the obese Broadcasting House over the last eighty years too and because of this no one has therefore logically seen fit to make a movie about it. But I'm glad this was made - it's still a refreshing atmospheric whodunit and something to make you think!
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