The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, May 25-31

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The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933)
Directed by James Whale
This quick and quirky thriller opens like you’d expect from a movie sandwiched in its maker’s filmography between The Old Dark House and The Invisible Man—with portent: reflective pools and black cats. Murder follows. A husband shoots his wife (Titanic’s Gloria Stuart) in her lover’s bedroom. And his lawyer friend, played by Frank “Wizard of Oz” Morgan, agrees to defend him. Problem is, Morgan suspects his wife is cheating on him, too. Whale’s film, adapted from a play by Ladislas Fodor, has a risqué pre-Code subject—unfaithful women, aflame with physical desire—and an outré plot, clever and compelling: a lawyer’s plan to get one wife-killer off, then kill his own wife, as if Johnny Cochran heard the OJ verdict, turned around, and shot Sylvia. As such, it’s plainly regressive, justifying uxoricide as legally defensible because, um, hello, how else could a husband react to adultery? But it’s also a dark tale of consuming jealousy, shot with moody flair by the reliably sinister Karl Freund. Plus, you can’t let its femmicidal tendencies get you down for long, because it’s got classy, subversively feminist comic relief by Jean Dixon, Morgan’s spunky associate. “Why don’t you get married?” Morgan’s wife, Nancy Carroll, asks her. “Being single has its points,” Dixon says. “No one murders you.” Henry Stewart (May 28, 5pm, at MoMA’s “Universal Pictures: Restorations and Rediscoveries”)

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