Mystery Collection, Disc 18

Inner Sanctum, 1948, b&w. Lew Landers (dir.), Charles Russell, Mary Beth Hughes, Dale Belding, Billy House, Fritz Leiber. 1:02.

A story within a story—with a twist on the outer story that I won’t reveal. The inner story: Guy gets off a train, woman gets off after him, they argue, she winds up dead, he throws her on the rear platform of the departing train. Lots more stuff happens involving a kid, his mother, a boarding house, a semi-loose woman, a one-man newspaper and various small-town folk. Oh, and a flood that strands the guy in the little town.

It’s OK, but nothing particularly special—the only real mystery is whether he’ll get away with it and what will happen in the process. I guess it could be called noir; I found it mostly dispiriting. The print’s good. As a minor B picture, it’s worth maybe $0.75.

Gaslight, 1940, b&w (released in the U.S. as The Murder in Thornton Square). Thorold Dickinson (dir.), Anton Walbrook, Diana Wynyard, Frank Pettingell, Cathleen Cordell, Robert Newton. 1:24.

This is the original Gaslight, a British film—not the much better-known American version with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman filmed in 1944. (Supposedly MGM attempted to suppress this version.) I haven’t seen the later film, but this is essentially the same plot and based on the same play: That is, a man is driving his wife insane (or at least to the point where he can have her committed)—in this case so he can continue searching for rubies that he killed his aunt for, years ago in the same house.

In this version the husband is a sneering Victorian tyrant, a true villain, and the wife is neurotic enough to make the overall plot believable. Well played and a good print. Not quite a masterpiece, but very good. I’ll give it $1.75.

The Last Mile, 1932, b&w. Samuel Bischoff (dir.), Preston Foster, Howard Phillips, George E. Stone, Neal Madison, Frank Sheridan. 1:15 [1:09]

Primarily a short death-row drama featuring eight prisoners, each in his own cell, and the guard watching over them all—although the surround is one person who’s innocent (and the only one who survives). Lots of talk (and one execution early on, with the interesting variation that the prisoner’s Jewish, so the prayers being spoken are different) followed by an attempted prison break and attendant action. Very much anti-death penalty, including a textual introduction from a prison warden.

Not great, not terrible. It’s a play on film, and feels that way. The print’s missing six minutes and is choppy in places. I’ll give it $1.00.

D.O.A., 1950, b&w. Rudolph Maté (dir.), Edmond O’Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, Beverly Garland, Lynn Baggett, William Ching, Henry Hart, Neville Brand. 1:23.

A classic, or at least a minor classic. Guy stumbles into the homicide division of a police station, asks to see the person in charge, gives his name…and they’re all ears. The rest of the story is flashbacks, and it’s a doozy. The guy’s an accountant from Banning, who’d gone to San Francisco for a little vacation (upsetting his girlfriend)…and who gets poisoned while he’s there, with a “luminous poison” for which there’s no cure but could leave him going for a day, two days, a week.

The rest of the story is his attempt to find out who murdered him. It’s a complicated story, but hangs together fairly well. To say any more might involve spoilers, and this movie’s good enough that I won’t do that. Well acted, well written, well directed. The print’s not great, but the movie is—about as good as film noir gets. $2.00.

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