Five Star Final

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


As a searing meditation on tabloid journalism from director Mervyn Leroy (“Little Caesar”), the Oscar nominated “Five Star Final” is a masterwork from the early days of cinema.

Crisp, punchy and compelling, the film pulls you in like a magnet. Although it hails from 1931, magically it does not show its age. The evils that it illustrates are well in force today.

Randall (Edward G. Robinson) gets word from the head of his newspaper that he must shift his editorial responsibilities to cover the acquittal of murderess Nancy Voorhees, (Frances Starr) now twenty years past.

The paper needs to increase its readership and profit.

Randall at first does not think of the consequences of his actions. He is thrilled by the opportunity and hires Vernon Isopod (Boris Karloff) to impersonate a minister and question Mrs. Voorhees, now leading a peaceful life, guiding her sweet vivacious daughter (Marian Marsh) into marriage.

To her horror, Nancy finds out that the paper is planning an exposé on her, and she is understandably stricken, fearing her new tranquil life will be ruined, yet she has hope that the mysterious Isopod will intervene.

Isopod as promised comes to the door. Strangely, Mrs. Voorhees is comforted and divulges secrets to the shady Isopod despite the fact that he is stern and bears no gifts for the pre-marital couple.

After her loving husband raises obvious signs of fraud and masquerade, Mrs. Voorhees almost faints.

This classic film works as a top notch thriller and is chock full of social commentary. Edward G. Robinson simmers here alternating between joy, rage and rebellion.

Frances Starr’s struggle and sadness will pull at your heart as will Marian Marsh from “Svengali” fame, who is startlingly beautiful with an allure equal to Marilyn Monroe.

Lovers of camp will appreciate the great Boris Karloff who portrays the very real human monster within, complete with a curdling sickly sweet voice.

The life of a tabloid paper is shiny yet sour. The patterns of 1931 and its rich streamlined fabrics and big hats might just as well be 2022. Things have not changed.

“Five Star Final” with its omnipresent smoke and melodrama is an Art Deco gem. Few films have been so pointed or honest.

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