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Modest adventure concerning jewel thief, detective, damsel and wicked relatives
Ella Raines's valuable emerald is stolen aboard the Orient Express. A handsome stranger helpfully examines her compartment and finds the jewel for her but did he actually steal it himself first just to return it? –It's a nice setup that starts us guessing at characters and motives right away.
The stranger, we quickly learn, is the notorious and dashing Arsene Lupin, a jewel thief always just eluding the French police. Charles Korvin is fine if a bit unexciting as Lupin.
The famous French detective Inspector Ganimard is always a step or two behind Lupin. J. Carrol Naish pours on the accent and hams it up mercilessly—this Ganimard has nothing on Inspector Clouseau in the brains department.
Raines's character, meanwhile, is headed home where she lives with her cousins. These sinister cousins (Gale Sondergaard and Miles Mander) claim that Raines has mental problems and needs to rest a lot; they also stand to inherit her emerald if anything happens to her. Korvin befriends Raines, Naish tracks Korvin, the cousins plot deviltry, and everyone worries about the jewel.
While rarely surprising or particularly suspenseful, this picture is certainly entertaining in a B movie kind of way—the kind of picture that could have turned into a nice series in the Boston Blackie vein, given a couple more pictures to develop the characters a bit. (The rather strange and inconclusive ending made me wonder if indeed a series was being contemplated. Why else leave so much hanging? And what does the title mean?)
Raines is quite enchanting despite a role that doesn't give her all that much to do—she had something special at that moment in her career. Naish is also lots of fun as the blundering detective. It's no classic, but certainly worth a look for fans of mystery-comedies—or for fans of the two earlier Arsene Lupin pictures starring John Barrymore then Melvyn Douglas in the role.
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