The Thirteenth Chair (1929) is a real curio and Browning’s first sound film. Like a lot of early sound films, it is bogged down with that wax museum-like staging. This is yet another drawing room murder mystery, taken from an antiquated stage play, but being a Tod Browning production, the film cannot resist its own latent, deviant infrastructure in the acutely bizarre casting of Bela Lugosi as the well-dressed Inspector Delzante.
In the original play, the character of the inspector had a different name and was played for laughs. The Thirteenth Chair was an all around testing of the waters type of film, namely, in handling that new invention called sound, which neither Browning nor the production team were comfortably with (all too clearly). However, the main testing was the upcoming role of Dracula and for that reason Browning grabbed Lugosi, who had made the role a mega hit on the stage circuit.