Mystery Collection Disc 16

The Phantom Fiend, 1932, b&w. Maurice Elvey (dir.), Ivor Novello, Elizabeth Allan, A.W. Baskcomb, Barbara Everest, Jack Hawkins. 1:25 [1:02]

Women keep getting murdered in London at call boxes. A phone operator, who may have heard one of the murders, lives at home with her parents—who also rent a room, when they can. She has a sort-of sometimes boyfriend who’s a reporter. They manage to rent a room to a quiet foreign man who doesn’t like having women’s portraits hung in the room, plays a fine piano and also owns (but never seems to play) a violin.

He makes friends with the young woman—but in a mysterious way. Meanwhile, an agent claims to know who the fiend (“the avenger?”) is—and the father somehow concludes that it’s the roomer. Since the roomer is such an obvious suspect from the moment he appears in the picture, it should be obvious that Not All Is At It Seems, as is revealed in the final four minutes of a remarkably slow-moving flick. There’s a little domestic humor, but…

Atmospheric foggy-London photography, so-so picture, staticky sound, acceptable acting. (Note re picture and sound judgments: Now seeing the flicks on a much larger TV with upconversion to HDTV—which seems to make bad old prints more acceptable. Also listening with different and apparently better wireless headphones.) I wonder how much is missing in this considerably-abbreviated version of the original? I couldn’t get terribly excited, but I suppose it’s worth $1.00.

The Sleeping Tiger, 1954, b&w. Joseph Losey (dir.), Dirk Bogarde, Alexis Smith, Alexander Knox, Hugh Griffith, Patricia McCarron. 1:29 [1:27]

The setup: guy tries to rob a psychotherapist at gunpoint, but the shrink—a former army man—takes the gun away from him. And, instead of turning him in to the police, takes him home for a six-month experiment: “See whether we can turn things around, or go back to the cops and jail.” The housekeeper’s appalled and leaves (not without a little rough stuff from the guy, who doesn’t want her to leave). The wife, perhaps a trifle distant from her brilliant husband who’s always off lecturing (she’s American, he’s British, the film’s set in London), is hesitant at first but…well, goes riding with him, then starts falling for him.

Things end badly (particularly for her). Much of the movie is slow-moving, but it’s reasonably interesting and well-acted overall. An oddity: The sleeve gives the star as Alexis Smith (the wife), but I’d say Dirk Bogarde (the brooding young man—he was 34 at the time) is the real star here. Either it’s the new TV or this is an unusually good print, but the tonal qualities were very good. There are, sad to say, some missing pieces—whole lines of dialog, not just chops, although it only adds up to two minutes overall. Still, I think it’s worth $1.25.

Monsoon, 1943, b&w. Edgar G. Ulmer (dir.), John Carradine, Gale Sondergaard, Sidney Toler, Frank Fenton, Veda Ann Borg, Rita Quickley, Rick Vallin. Original title: Isle of Forgotten Sins. 1:22 [1:16]

I’d already seen this movie on another set, and didn’t rewatch the entire movie. The big difference, such as it is, is the sleeve: Originally, the sleeve described some entirely different movie with, apparently, the same title, where this time the sleeve description was reasonably accurate. Here’s what I said in 2008:

[This movie is about] greed, gold, diving and weather. It starts in a South Seas gambling hall/brothel and winds up in a similar establishment. In between? Better than you might expect, partly because there really are no heroes among this strong cast. $1.25.

Slightly Honorable, 1939, b&w. Tay Garnett (dir.), Pat O’Brien, Edward Arnold, Broderick Crawford, Ruth Terry, Alan Dinehart, Claire Dodd, Phyllis Brooks, Eve Arden. 1:25.

The opening credits and music underneath make it clear that this is a comedy—but it’s also a mystery, and a fairly involved one at that. We have an honest lawyer who’s out to dethrone a group of crooked politicians and businesspeople, and whose client and good friend is murdered—presumably by one of the bad guys. We have a couple more murders, a singer/dancer (who tends to go flat, but is a great dancer) who’s a little underage and given to malapropisms, incompetent cops, the inimitable Eve Arden as a secretary (and victim) and lots more.

Thoroughly enjoyable, with a remarkable cast. The print’s generally very good. I give this one $1.75.

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