Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm series followed the exploits of a bitter, disillusioned assassin pressed back into service against his will and saddled with an endless series of depressing, violent assignments. They're tough, noirish, world-weary novels. So how come, when it came time to adapt them into movies, we ended up with a boozy Dean Martin making juvenile sex jokes and sliding ass-first down a mountain while waving around a ray gun?
How would the amateur cracksman fare under the stricter enforcement of the Production Code ushered in by Joseph Breen? The Code had been in existence well before 1934, but that year the office was taken over by Breen amid an atmosphere of increased scrutiny by and pressure from moral watchdogs who wanted to put a damper on the sex and violence rampant in horror and gangster films.
Ronald Colman, hot of his star-making role in 1929's Bulldog Drummond slips into the tuxedo and top hat of A.J. Raffles, amateur cracksman, for the first adaptation of the talkie era. Based on the same play as the 1917 and 1925 versions, the film treads familiar territory, but this time in the company of dashing Colman and the exquisite Kay Francis.
It's hard to imagine anyone in 1917 better suited to the role of A.J. Raffles than John Barrymore. As would be the case with many subsequent Raffles movies, this version is based in part on the stage play, which in turn was based primarily on "The Ides of March" and "Gentlemen and Players." Which makes sense; in terms of what one thinks of when one thinks of Raffles, gentleman thief, those two stories and re most Raffles of the Raffles stories