Dishonored (1931)

Genres - Action, Drama, Spy Film  |   Sub-Genres - Unglamorized Spy Film, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 4, 1931 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Though far from a classic, Dishonored is an immensely enjoyable vehicle for Marlene Dietrich, and a treat for fans of the screen goddess. Those who know Dietrich primarily as an icy, world weary siren, the personality with which she is often unfairly associated, will be in for a surprise here. "I'm not afraid of living or of dying," she announces early on, and she certainly demonstrates her capacity for living in here in a performance which moves from joyousness, strength and vitality to a doomed resignation born of doomed love -- and is always believable. A highlight is Dietrich's richly comic (and mostly silent) turn as fresh-off-the-farm scullery maid, a disguise which allows the actress to demonstrate a surprising talent for broad comedy. Aside from Dietrich, Dishonored has some problems. The script, though serviceable, is a bit short on inspiration and surprise; it gets to where it needs to go, but it doesn't take the viewer on a particularly interesting ride along the way. Director Josef von Sternberg does wonderfully with Dietrich and gets a good performance from Warner Oland, but he can't help Victor McLaglen get a handle on his character, leaving him to do little more than strut and stick an annoying leer on his face for extended periods of time. Von Sternberg does provide some beautiful visuals, of course, especially during one of his trademark party scenes; but he also overindulges a penchant for lengthy cross-fades. Despite its flaws, Dishonored is worth watching for Dietrich -- and she's quite an eyeful.