The Empire, in The Hands of Orlac, indulges in a horror picture, too. It is more excusable than The Raven in that its horror is incidental to its theme, which is the depicting of a deranged mind in a genius surgeon who grafts the hands of a murderer upon the mangled arms of a pianist for whose wife he has conceived an unlawful passion.
The problem takes precedence of the horror which gradually overcomes the humanity in the madman. Peter Lorre's surgeon is masterly in the control of the cadences of feeling that rise and fall until they rage in a crescendo to the final eruption of a diseased mind. Holiday fare for border-liners.
The Trunk Mystery is a murder comedy with a laugh in nearly every one of its seventy minutes. And yet it is a good murder with a tense little subsidiary drama running through it. It establishes Franchot Tone in the comedy position he earned in the Bengal Lancers. He comes to New York from Wyoming in search of any suitable brunette, while all the time the girl he really wants is a particular blonde. Una Merkel knows that even if he does not; and she has an inimitably terrible time persuading him. and getting her colleague. Ermine, to take charge of her switch-board while she does it.
A man is murdered, his body disappears, a bracelet is stolen and a romance nearly wrecked before Conrad Nagel (welcome back!) gets what is coining to him and Una says: " Ermine, watch my board, I've just got to go to Wyoming." A new team that might easily twinkle into stardom with the slick assistance of Director Jack Conway.