Murder with Pictures, 1936, b&w. Charles Barton (dir.), Lew Ayres, Gail Patrick, Paul Kelly, Benny Baker, Errest Cossart, Onslow Stevens, Joyce Compton, Anthony Nace. 1:09.
The movie opens with a bad guy about to be acquitted for a murder—as long as That Person Doesn’t Show Up (but, as his pricey attorney notes, it doesn’t matter—once it’s gone to the jury, no new evidence can be admitted). He’s acquitted, goes back to his apartment (surrounded by his gang), and finds A Mysterious Woman along the way (while also being ambushed for a photo by a crack newspaper photographer).
That’s just the start of a plot-heavy picture, part comedy, part mystery, that includes two or three more murders, a ditzy fiancée, showering fully clothed, some heated arguments and, of course, a frenetic happy ending. I couldn’t begin to summarize the plot, but it heavily involves reporters and photographers.
Slight, but fun. I’ll give it $1.25.
The Stranger, 1946, b&w. Orson Welles (dir.), Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Orson Welles, Philip Merivale, Richard Long, Konstantin Shayne. 1:35.
Neither fun but slight, this one’s a true classic—maybe a masterpiece. It begins at the Allied War Crimes Commission, as Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) insists that they make it possible for a secondary Nazi, Konrad Meinike, to escape—so he can lead them to a primary target who’s erased all clues to his whereabouts: Franz Kindler (Orson Welles).
Meinike winds up in Connecticut, where Welles is a professor at a local college, now named Charles Rankin and about to marry the daughter (Loretta Young) of a Supreme Court justice. Meinike also winds up dead, to be sure—and the rest of the movie is about the process of getting Kindler to reveal himself. It involves lots of psychodrama and a fair amount of tension. Oh, and some checker games with the slightly shifty proprietor of the local drug store. And a lot about clockworks.
Beautifully directed and well acted (Robinson is particularly fine, but they all do good work). Good print, marred very slightly by noise on the soundtrack. I can’t possibly give this one less than $2.00.
Murder at Midnight, 1931, b&w. Frank R. Strayer (dir.), Aileen Pringle, Alice White, Hale Hamilton, Robert Elliott, Clara Bandick. 1:09 [1:06].
At 66 minutes, this film seems padded—as though a 20-minute short might have worked better. It begins with a, well, implausible idea (three people carrying out an extensive sketch involving shooting, in order to convey a charades clue to a couple of dozen guests—and since when can you speak doing charades?). The key: the “blanks” in the gun turn out to be real bullets. The rest of the film? A series of slow-moving killings and surprises, supposed humor that isn’t funny, and very little suspense. I could barely keep from nodding off…
Also not a very good print. Other than being dull, slow, tiresome and acted as though it was a stage play done by amateurs, it was so-so. Charitably, $0.50.
Kansas City Confidential, 1952, b&w. Phil Karlson (dir.), John Payne, Coleen Gray, Preston Foster, Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Dona Drake. 1:39.
A big guy sets up a bank robbery (actually an armored car robbery) with great precision, making it nearly a perfect crime involving three ex-cons (all in current trouble), all wearing masks (as does the big guy) so they can’t identify or rat on each other—and in the process framing a flower delivery man (Payne) who also did a little hard time.
The delivery man escapes the frame but, thanks to cops publicizing his arrest, can’t find work. He finds out the name and destination of one of the three chumps (each sent to hide in a different country), tracks him down in Tijuana and makes sure he’ll be along when the guy goes to get his share of the loot. But on the way, the chump gets shot and the delivery man assumes his identity.
That sets things up for a tense plot in a Mexican resort with a fair amount of attempted double-crossing, a beautiful young law student whose father is an ex-cop (and, clearly, the big guy)…and, well, it all works out in a fairly elaborate finale. Quite a cast, including young (at the time) Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam and Neville Brand as the three cons that did the robbery. Well acted, well filmed, classic noir style, worth $1.75.