Mystery Collection Disc 8

The Man on the Eiffel Tower, 1949, color. Burgess Meredith (dir.), Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone, Burgess Meredith, Robert Hutton, Jean Wallace, Patricia Roc. 1:37 [1:27].

Charles Laughton as Inspector Maigret, with a young Burgess Meredith as a would-be robber…in a movie directed by the young Burgess Meredith (taking over for producer Irving Allen). His character’s a near-blind (without his glasses) knife-sharpener who needs some real money. Enter a married playboy, dependent on his wealthy aunt, who wants to leave his wife for his American girlfriend—but his wife, who knows all about it, will only go with a substantial settlement. He’d give a million francs if someone would off the aunt (he’s the heir)—and a nearby psychopath (Tone) hears about this.

Next thing we know, the aunt (and her maid) are murdered, Meredith’s character’s busily being frames, Maigret’s in trouble for letting him escape from prison while awaiting trial, and the psycopath’s actively taunting Maigret. He’s fond of lunch on the restaurant on the Eiffel’s observation platform, and notes that diving from the tower would be a great way to end things.

Lots of plot, lots of psychological strangeness, one more death…and, all in all, an interesting flick. It’s sort-of in color (as with many other early color flicks, there’s fading, whole scenes where some colors are missing or everything’s red-shifted), there are missing frames (and apparently more than just frames), it’s a little damaged. It’s also not as well directed as it might be. All that combines to $1.50.

Topper Returns, 1941, b&w. Roy Del Ruth (dir.), Joan Blondell, Roland Young, Carole Landis, Billie Burke, Dennis O’Keefe, Patsy Kelly, H.B. Warner, Eddie ‘Rochester” Anderson. 1:28.

An absolute charmer, with Cosmo Topper (Young), the slightly-henpecked banker, once again involved with ghosts—this time quite unwillingly, and it is a mystery. Two women in a taxi; a hooded figure aims with a rifle, shoots out a tire, and almost causes the taxi to go off the road and into the ocean—but not quite. As the cabbie (O’Keefe) goes for help, the women flag down Topper (and his chauffeur, the inimitable Eddie “Rochester” Anderson of Jack Benny fame) to take them to Carrington Hall. On the way, one woman (Blondell) is sitting on Topper’s lap—and since the Toppers are the Carrington’s next-door neighbor (but it’s a long drive to that next door), Topper’s wife (Burke, a fine comedienne) sees them on the way.

That’s just the start. The other woman (Ann Carrington, played by Carole Landis) has arrived to finally meet her father; she’s heir to the entire Carrington estate and he seems to be in bad health. The servants are, well, strange—as is the family doctor. The two women switch bedrooms for the night—which results in the wrong woman being killed. Her ghost emerges—a remarkably corporeal ghost, capable of leaving footprints, opening doors, and getting drunk, but visible only when she chooses to be—and the chase is on.

It’s a combination mystery and slapstick comedy. There’s little more to be said about the plot, but the movie just keeps moving along—with hidden passages and lots more. The print’s very good and this movie is certainly worth rewatching. Slight but first-rate. $2.00.

The Green Glove, 1952, b&w. Rudolph Maté (dir.), Glenn Ford, Geraldine Brooks, Cedrick Hardwicke, George Macready, Jany Holt, Roger Treville. 1:29.

The film begins at the end—when a jewel-encrusted saint’s gauntlet, one that brought miracle-seekers to the little town honoring the saint until it disappeared—turns up once again, signaled by the church bells ringing (which they would never do while the gauntlet was missing).

Then we go back to World War II, an airman bailing out behind German lines, and the actual plot begins. Yank airman (Ford) discovers “journalist”/double agent, carrying a bag with some drawings and the gauntlet; for various reasons, he winds up with the bag but leaves it for safekeeping in a chateau as he makes his way back to the front lines.

Years later, the airman’s doing badly—and comes back to France, presumably to find the gauntlet (the green glove) and make a small fortune selling it. The rest of the film—most of it—deals with this adventure, as the double agent (an antique dealer in peacetime) is watching him, murders get the police involved, there’s a beautiful woman who gets caught up in it all…

Nicely done all around, with a tense final 15 minutes or so—and the movie moves along nicely throughout. Good performances, good directing. The print’s a little soft and not great b&w, the main thing bringing this down to a still-respectable $1.50.

The Second Woman, 1950, b&w. James V. Kern (dir.), Robert Young, Betsy Drake, John Sutton, Florence Bates, Morris Carnovsky, Henry O’Neill, Jason Robards Sr. 1:31.

Robert Young is an architect who, a year previously, lost his fiancée in an auto accident the night before the wedding—in a crash he’s supposedly responsible for. He lives in a striking modern home, which he designed, on the coast—right next to a more traditional home, where a young woman visiting her aunt runs into him and strikes up an acquaintance, almost immediately falling in love with him.

But he seems cursed: Over the course of a few days, a prized sculpture breaks, a prized painting fades away, his horse suffers a destroyed ankle and has to be destroyed, his rose bush dies, his dog is poisoned, he loses a prize commission because the package of drawings omits all the interiors…and his house burns down.

He thinks it’s bad luck. The woman (an actuary at home) thinks that’s impossible, and sets out to investigate (against his wishes). The family doctor thinks he’s paranoiac (the way they said it then) and actually doing all these things to himself. There are two other characters: The wealthy head of the firm Young works for (and father of the dead fiancée), and a cad who’s also part of the firm and pretty clearly evil in almost every way.

Right up to the last ten minutes or so, it’s not clear at all whether he’s doing it to himself or whether someone else is responsible—and, for that matter, who the “someone else” might be. It all comes together in a great climax.

Well played and compelling. My only real problem is a grotesque logic gap having to do with timing, but to mention what that gap is would be a spoiler. Even so, the print’s good, it’s well directed, it truly is a mystery and it’s worth $1.75.

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