In Europe, and especially France, Arsene Lupin, the gentleman thief, is
nearly as popular as Sherlock Holmes is in the US. Like Holmes, the
character comes from a series of popular books and like the consulting
detective he's been the star of a number of film and TV adaptations. In
1932 and again in 1938, MGM brought the wily crook to the big screen.
Now both of these fine films, Arsene
Lupin and Arsene Lupin
Returns, are available on one DVD from Warner Archives. The
first film is great, staring John and Lionel Barrymore as
(respectively) an upper-crust playboy and a detective who suspects the
man of being the famous thief, while the second installment is just
okay, this time featuring Melvyn Douglas and Warren William.
The master thief Arsene Lupin has been pilfering from the rich of Paris
for years, and Detective Guerchard (Lionel Barrymore) has been chasing
him for years. He gets a big break when, following a carriage after a
robbery, he discovers the Duke of Charmerace (John Barrymore) tied up
in the back. The Duke insists that he was kidnapped by Lupin but
Guerchard is convinced that the smooth noble is actually the thief. The
result is a cat-and-mouse game where Guerchard keeps barely missing the
suave crook, and Charmerace always being near the scene of the crime.
Will Guerchard be able to catch him man, or will he be fired from the
This was a really fun film. The Barrymores both play their roles
perfectly, with Lionel having just the right amount of grumpiness to
make viewers underestimate him, and a good does of quiet intellect so
the resolution seems natural. The show is really made by John however,
who is funny and incredibly charming. He's able to trade banter with
the best of them, and he seems smooth and natural in the role. A
superior film that shouldn't be missed.
Arsene Lupin Returns:
This sequel, released six years after the first, is a good attempt to
breathe life into the character but doesn't quite hit the mark.
Steve Emerson (Warren William) is the star of the FBI. He's behind
every big collar and at the scene of every major bust. The papers
feature his picture and reporters flock around him trying to get a
scoop. He is so popular with the public that his boss fires him. He
explains that the FBI is a team effort, and that Steve is just too
good. The intrepid ex-G-man lands on his feet however and after a phone
call is hired by an insurance agency.
His first assignment is to guard a valuable emerald necklace that is
owned by the French Count de Grissac and his daughter Lorraine. They're
in New York to try to sell the piece, but when an attempt is made to
steal it, they return to France with Emerson going along to keep the
Once back in France, Emerson becomes convinced that Arsene Lupin is
behind the attempt omn the necklace. Even when people point out that
Lupin was killed by the police three years ago (events from the
previous movie) Steve is not deterred. It turns out that the real Lupin
is still alive and living near the Count, but he's gone straight... or
This film, while populated with some very good actors, just doesn't
quite come together the way the previous one did. It's a bit too staid
with everyone spending way too much time standing around and talking.
That said, there are some good moments, including the ending. It just
takes a bit too long to get there.
Both movies are included on a single DVD-R.
The original mono soundtrack is included and it sounds fine. The dialog
is easy to make out and the musical numbers sound good. Nothing to
complain about here.
The full frame image looks very good for unrestored movies dating back
to the early days of sound film. There are some occasional spots and
scratches on the print, but these are minor. The contrast is great, the
picture is clear and the image is very easy on the eyes.
As with most Warner Archive titles, the extras are scarce. This disc
includes a trailer for Arsene Lupin
Returns, which is quite good, but that's all.
While the second film in this set is just okay, the first was is
excellent and that makes this collection easy to recommend.