Mystery Collection Disc 26

Another case in which the order of movies on the sleeve is not the order of movies on the disc. Reviews are in the order of movies on the disc.

 

The Most Dangerous Game, 1932, b&w, Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack (dirs.), Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks, Robert Armstrong. 1:03.

Reviewed as part of 50 Movie Pack Hollywood Legends; not re-reviewed. What I had to say in 2007:

Rich hunter on a boat trip. The buoys don’t look quite right to the captain, but the hunter insists they continue—leading to a shipwreck which he alone survives. He winds up at a castle on a remote island, hosted by Count Zaroff, who recognizes him as a great hunter and boasts of hunting “the most dangerous game.” Other than a bunch of Russian-only servants, the only other ones there are a couple (also survivors of a shipwreck), with the man a somewhat drunken mess. Eventually, it becomes clear just what the most dangerous game is. Scratchy soundtrack but an effective, fast-moving flick. $1.50.

The Phantom Broadcast, 1933, b&w. Phil Rosen (dir.), Ralph Forbes, Vivienne Osborne, Arnold Gray, Gail Patrick, Guinn Williams, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes. 1:12.

A slow movie where the mystery is revealed halfway through and isn’t about who committed the murder. The setup: A radio crooner, who receives hundreds of love letters each day, is also a Lothario—we see a valet deliver several little boxes to various women, each containing a little bouquet and a message saying the crooner hopes to have dinner with the woman (on a different night in each case) and is singing for her. Another twist: One of his flames, who believes she’s going to move in with him and marry him, is part of a group of mobsters that wants to get rid of his manager/accompanist and take him over to rake in the big bucks.

Oh, one oddity: When the crooner sings, he’s always in a studio…with a curtain set up so you only see the hands of the accompanist. It doesn’t take long to learn the reason for that: The accompanist, a hunchback (a word that’s repeated frequently, sometimes with “little” added), is the one actually doing the singing—the crooner’s just there for appearances.

Let’s see. We get a young woman with a great voice who has to choose between her vocal career and marrying her doctor fiancée (who’s going off on a six-month cruise as a ship’s doctor to earn enough to set up his practice), since an artist can only serve one master. We get a rubout that doesn’t happen. We get someone taking the rap for someone else who, as it happens, wasn’t involved at all. And, of course, we get an ending that could be worse.

Damned if I know what to think of this one. Lethargic, and deep emotion seemed to be expressed by the same long slow looks as, well, boredom or anything else. Maybe $1.00.

Murder on the Campus, 1933, b&w. Richard Thorpe (dir.), Charles Starrett, Shirley Grey, J. Farrell MacDonald, Ruth Hall, Dewey Robinson, Maurice Black, Edward Van Sloan. 1:13 [1:09]

Lots of plot, but none of it hangs together very well. We have a gambler, a wise-cracking reporter who’s in love with a singer at the gambler’s (I guess?) nightclub and who’s also working her way through college, a murder in the campus campanile and, shortly thereafter, two other murders… And the reporter always seems to be On The Scene.

All too complicated, and far too much of it hinges on the reporter being both incredibly clever and a complete numbskull, as he privately confronts the person he believes responsible for all the deaths—apparently a Professor of Everything, as he has high-power recording and playback equipment, lots of other electronics, and oodles of chemistry equipment in his lab, along with a full darkroom—with his suspicions and evidence. There’s so much else that’s wildly implausible in this mess that the climax is no worse than anything else. At best, I give this $0.75.

Death from a Distance, 1935, b&w. Frank R. Strayer (dir.), Russell Hopton, Lola Lane, George F. Marion, Lee Kohlmar, John St. Polis. 1:08 [1:10]

This one also has a wise-cracking reporter (a 23 year old woman), along with a sometimes-wisecracking homicide detective, with the two fighting so much you know they’re going to wind up together. That’s not the primary plot, though.

The plot: We’re in a planetarium at an observatory, with a famed European professor giving an illustrated lecture, by invitation only. Suddenly, a shot rings out…and, as people start panicking, the head of the observatory tells the—well, I’m not sure just what he is, so let’s say “general functionary”—to lock the door. Thus, whoever shot the man (one of the audience, not the lecturer) must still be in the room. Police are called. Oh, by the way, the reporter was part of the audience. One audience member wasn’t on the original invitation list (but must have had an invitation to get in): a Hindu who knew the victim but asserts his innocence…and is arrested, even though the detective’s pretty sure he’s not the culprit.

That starts things off. As the movie goes along, we get an ex-con who’s changed his name and become an astronomer, lots of plot involving Arcturus (“Job’s star”) and double-dealing, an apparent second murder (or maybe suicide), the use of Arcturus itself as a murder weapon (you’ll just have to watch the picture), and a culprit who may be obvious to some viewers. Or not.

Unlike the previous movie, and apart from one or two odd plot twists, this one all seems to work, and was a pleasure to watch. Unfortunately, the sound track’s not great, there are synchronization problems, and for the first few minutes there are flashes of color noise. Those technical problems reduce this to $1.25.

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