Based on a popular novel by The Asphalt Jungle writer W. R. Burnett, Browning’s immediate follow-up to Dracula is this cautionary tale starring Lew Ayres (fresh off All Quiet on the Western Front) as Kid Mason, a lightweight boxing champ whose affection is divided between his friend and manager (Robert Armstrong) and his double-crossing wife (Jean Harlow). One of a handful of boxing movies made by Hollywood during the Depression years, Iron Man offers an unusual milieu for the moral and sexual frustrations of Browning’s cinema. Although these motifs are certainly present here, they are disguised by a surprisingly sensitive, understated direction, typified by impressive camerawork doubtlessly inspired by Browning’s time with DP Karl Freund on Dracula. The result is one of the filmmaker’s most neglected, yet affecting works.
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