Roland West’s Alibi, a Roland West film by Roland West, was written and directed by Roland West, as well as produced by Roland West, and if the copious screen credits and plastering of Roland West’s name all over this Roland West film and its promotional material weren’t enough to clue you in that this is a Roland West film, then clearly Roland West desires that you should watch this Roland West film a second time; after all, this is a Roland West picture, written and directed by Roland West. By the way, who’s Roland West, exactly? Despite his name all over this film, I’d never heard of Mr. West before now, and when I watched his film Alibi, I so very clearly understood why. Maybe he wanted to be a big one-man name in Hollywood, and considering this was nominated for Best Picture, he might’ve succeeded. Not in my book, though; not only should this never have come within earshot of the phrase Best Picture, but I actually feel bad that money was spent to quote-unquote “restore” this film and give it even the meager DVD release it got.
Chick Williams is a mobster just released from prison, who immediately gets back in with his gang and slates them for a robbery. When a cop is killed during the crime, however, suspicion falls on him; thankfully, he has an excellent alibi (ha, it’s the title of the movie; get it?) in that he was at the local theater with the police chief’s daughter the whole night. The police aren’t buying it, though, and the rest of the film is spent with them trying to poke holes in Chick’s alibi until they finally confront him face to face after an undercover cop gets whacked. I think that mildly in-depth plot synopsis is enough of a gift from me, so now, let’s talk about the film itself, and how horrendously awful it is. For starters, imagine if, for direction, the director (Roland West, who is directing a Roland West script produced by Roland West) had merely told the camera operator, “Okay, now start the shot here, and I’ll have the actors do their thing, and then hold on their faces for a couple extra seconds, and then cut,” cause that’s almost exactly how this was shot and edited together. Now imagine that West’s direction to his actors was, “Okay, now when the shot starts, start acting here, say your line here, in this way, with this facial expression, and then do that for the next line, and so on, and then hold that expression for a couple extra seconds, and then we’re gonna cut,” cause that’s almost exactly how the actors in this film deliver every painful line and every scrawled expression. Almost every aspect of this film was so incredibly blocky that it made me wonder if the addition of sound had caused the filmmakers, every single one of them, to completely forget how to make a film, let alone a good one. The opening montage (can I even call it a montage?) seemed to be designed solely to take advantage of this new-fangled techno-ma-jigger called sound, almost as if the film was crying out “Hey, look at what we can do with synchronized sound effects!” From there, it just got worse with every scene, from the ham-fisted acting by somehow-Academy-Award-nominated-for-this-role Chester Morris, who looked like he kept getting caught trying desperately to eat his own face, to the death of the undercover cop, which is reportedly one of, if not, the longest death sequences ever, and it feels every second of it.
I honestly feel I’m doing this film an unwarranted favor by rating it as highly as I am, but to be completely straight, I ended up giving it this rating by comparing it to other films I also rated this low; that was the only way I could figure out how to do it. I believe I ended up giving it an extra point just for the curveball with the reveal of the undercover cop, which was fairly well done, and for the fact that an average viewer will be able to at least get through it, solely because it was short and in English and for no other reason. But that would be it. Everything else to this one was almost Vinyl-levels of bad, and it only saved itself from being that bad because it was actually trying to be good, even though it failed on an almost disgusting level. Avoid Alibi like the plague. If this is one of the five best films of the 2nd Academy Awards, this does not bode well for the other films in the lineup, and for the first time already, I felt a little indignation, and slightly more than a little regret, at my taking this task on.
Arbitrary Rating: 4/10