Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Death on the Diamond (1934) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

An excellent cast buoys DEATH ON THE DIAMOND (1934), an engaging little baseball mystery recently released by the Warner Archive.

The movie is a compact 71-minute whodunit in which a string of murders hits the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals have risen to postseason contenders thanks to adding star pitcher Larry Kelly (Robert Young) to the roster. Mobsters who want the team to lose try to buy off Larry, who turns down their offer in spectacular fashion, after which his teammates start dying. Anxiety builds as one by one players die; the police, a reporter (Paul Kelly), and the team desperately try to solve the mystery as simultaneously the pennant race winds to a close.

Young and Kelly are both good in the lead roles. Young makes a very credible pitcher, jacket worn over his pitching arm while his team's at bat, and Kelly is always an energetic, highly watchable performer.

Lovely Madge Evans is the leading lady, playing the manager's daughter who falls for Larry, and David Landau is wonderful as Pop, the manager. Sadly this was Landau's next-to-last film; a terrific character actor, he was just 56 when he died in 1935. He's buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

Nat Pendleton is the catcher, with Ted Healy playing his nemesis, an umpire. A little of Healy usually goes a very long way for me, but he has a really nice scene late in the film.

Classic film fans will also enjoy spotting the many great "faces" who pop up in the movie. You'll find Mickey Rooney as the bat boy, Walter Brennan as a hot dog vendor, Ward Bond as a cop protecting Larry, Dennis O'Keefe as a baseball announcer, Joe Sawyer (billed Joe Sauers) as a player, and James Ellison as a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.

The game sequences mix second unit photography and back projections, which are pretty good as back projections go. You know they're there, but their use is less obvious than in some movies.

The screenplay for this solid baseball mystery was based on a novel by Cortland Fitzsimmons. Edward Sedgwick directed, with cinematography by Milton Krasner.

I previously reviewed this film in 2011, after it was shown on Turner Classic Movies.

The Warner Archive DVD has a good picture and sound quality. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger barrylane said...

I have ordered my copy. Baseball, Robert Young, Madge Evans and Paul Kelly, with Ted Healy and Nat Pendleton thrown in for good measure is just my speed. And, no problem at all with Healy. Merry Christmas.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Wonderful! I hope you'll find it as enjoyable as I have -- lots of great people to keep company with in this one. :)

Best wishes,

11:58 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

I agree, it's an entertaining little murder-mystery. Great vengeance rant towards the end!

It's interesting to note that Franchot Tone was originally announced as the lead.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Jef Costello said...

This has me intrigued more so than the normal baseball movie as my local team, the Cardinals are featured. This also happens to have been released the same year as when the Dizzy Dean-led Gas House Gang won the World Series. Definitely a must see for me. Great review Laura!

12:59 PM  

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