Review: The Kiss Before the Mirror
Blu-ray: The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933)
Adapted from the 1932 play by Ladislas Fodor and directed by James Whale, you can tell right from the start that The Kiss Before the Mirror is pre-Hayes code, as we see Lucy Bernsdorf skip through the garden of her lover (a very young Walter Pidgeon) before being led into the bedroom for some rumpypumpy. Unknown to the lovers her husband is peeking through the bedroom window, and in a fit of jealous rage he shoots her through the glass, killing her.
Bernsdorf’s attorney friend Paul Held defends him, and after a court hearing, Paul returns home to his wife Maria and watches her as she applies make-up at her mirror, reminding him of the one his friend Bernsdorf described leading up to Lucy’s murder. When Paul attempts to kiss Maria, she rebuffs him, just like Bernsdorfs wife did with him, criticizing him for ruining her make-up. She then leaves for a dinner date and Paul follows Maria through the streets of Vienna, and – yes you guessed it, she’s meeting her lover.
This is a watchable film, and interesting as it plainly ‘discusses’ sex and unfaithfulness, but it also shows typical patriarchal attitiudes of that time, where women are in essence evil sluts with no morals, and men as stoic godly pillars of society. Sigh.
At the end Bernsdorf is acquitted (he SHOT his wife!), and warns Paul against killing Maria in a similar way. Luckily for Maria he decides not to kill her. When he gets home Paul angrily smashes Maria’s vanity mirror, and when Maria appears behind him, the two embrace…The End, yep, its another one of those films with no real ending.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES:
- 2020 restoration from a 2K scan
- Original mono audio
- Audio commentary with film historian Nora Fiore (2023)
- A Shattered Reflection (2023, 12 mins): video essay comparing The Kiss Before the Mirror to James Whale’s 1938 remake, Wives Under Suspicion, which was produced in the era of the Motion Picture Production Code
- Classification of Enlisted Men (1942, 12 mins): War Department documentary short, directed by James Whale and focusing on four inductees into the US Army
- Image gallery: promotional and publicity materials
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay on the film by Philip Kemp, a contemporary profile of director James Whale, an interview with filmmaker Curtis Harrington on Whale, an overview of contemporary critical responses, new writing on Classification of Enlisted Men, and full film credits
- UK premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited edition of 3,000 copies for the UK
Review by Tina from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.