Hold That Woman, 1940, b&w. Sam Newfield (dir.), James Dunn, Frances Gifford, George Douglas, Rita La Roy, Martin Spellman, Eddie Fetherston. 1:07 [1:04]
This fast-moving comedy (not much mystery, although there’s plenty of crime) is set in an LA where apparently nobody actually pays for anything and people move every few days to avoid being held accountable, thus keeping an army of skip tracers employed: People who go out to either get some money from the skipper or retrieve the item.
Skip-Tracers Ltd. has a star tracer—and another guy who doesn’t do so well (and who deeply resents the fair-haired boy but never says why). He’s told that he has 30 days to ship up or ship out, and given to easy assignments to do before his date that evening: A fur coat and a radio. Next thing we see, he’s picking up his date—the beautiful daughter of a cop—and hands her this great new coat to wear for the evening. Oh, and they have to stop on the way to the nightclub to pick up that radio…and when he tries to do that, he gets arrested.
Anyway, one thing leads to another, with repossessions and “un-repossessions” all over the place, a jewel robbery with an obvious suspect (who’s obviously guilty: Not much mystery here), a wealthy Hollywood starlet with an odd accent and a tendency to love whoever’s handy…and this skip tracer who has impulse problems. As with: When you’re about to get fired and have $600 to your name, what’s more reasonable than to propose on the spot, get married, rent a house and spend the rest of your cash on a houseload of furniture. (Which turns out to be…you guessed it.)
Lots of action, a fair amount of fun, reasonably well played. Silly, but (or “Silly, and”) I’ll give it $1.00.
Midnight Limited, 1940, b&w. Howard Bretherton (dir.), John King, Marjorie Reynolds, George Cleveland, Edward Keane, Monte Collins, L Stanford Jolley. 1:02.
The night train from New York to Montreal is the setting for a series of robberies—always in Car 1 (next to the baggage car), always the same MO. In the first one, a young woman—not the intended victim—has crucial papers stolen because the robber wants to intimidate her. She needs the papers and keeps bugging the railroad detectives until one of them takes a fancy to the case (and to her).
That’s the basic plot, and as you’d expect it winds up with the couple getting married, with a fair amount of plot in between. (The plot doesn’t always make sense, but…) The problem I had with this fairly typical low-budget B mystery is the dialog and acting of the head detective and the hero: They both sounded like they were reading from a dictionary, and the dialog seemed wholly artificial. That clumsiness reduces an otherwise typical buck-a-pop hour-long B to $0.75.
Murder At Dawn, 1932, b&w. Richard Thorpe (dir.), Jack Mulhall, Josephine Dunn, Eddie Boland, Marjorie Beebe, Martha Mattox, Mischa Auer, Phillips Smalley, Crauford Kent, Frank Ball. 1:02 [0:51]
There is a plot, to be sure. A young couple about to get married head upstate to her father’s mysterious lodge/laboratory, accompanied by another married couple (the husband a cheerful alcoholic). They arrive at some remote train station where the only conveyance is the source of some sad ethnic humor…and eventually at the house (which the driver didn’t want to take them to). Meanwhile, the father’s just completed his invention, a solar-powered source of unlimited energy! which works equally well under artificial lighting! and will revolutionize the world! According to one review, the lab equipment (with lots of sparks and the like) was the same used in the original Frankenstein.
From there we get lots of secret passages, lowkey-spooky housekeeper, mysterious characters of all sorts, the drunken bumbling and childish screaming of the male friend, one murder, at least one assumed murder and some varied number of unknown folks stalking other unknown folks. I guess it all ends well, but it’s so incoherent that it’s hard to tell. Apparently 11 minutes of an already-short flick are missing; it’s possible (but unlikely) that it would be more coherent if it was complete. Mostly this is just dumb, in a mediocre print. Charitably, $0.75.
Murder at Glen Athol, 1936, b&w. Frank R. Strayer (dir.), John Miljan, Irene Ware, Iris Adrian, Noel Madison, Oscar Apfel, Barry Norton, Harry Holman, Betty Blythe. 1:04 [1:07]
The suave detective on holiday (at a wealthy friend’s home, the friend conveniently gone), trying to write a book while his former-prizefighter pal (they’ve saved each other’s life) is vacuuming, butling, and generally interfering. The neighbors with complicated family stuff—including a golddigger who’s divorced one person for a fat settlement, driven a husband into the asylum, and now wants to get rid of him and marry his brother…and who comes on to the detective, but also has a beautiful and not quite so bizarre friend. Gangsters (I guess) also come into the play—partly because the slut/golddigger/party girl is blackmailing one of them.
What follows: Lots’o'plot but remarkably little real motion, to the point that I may have nodded off once or twice. Three murders (well, five deaths…) It all winds up with the detective marrying the beautiful friend after a (courtship? a few conversations) lasting perhaps two or three days, and justice sort-of done.
Somehow, this one just didn’t work. I didn’t care about the mystery, I didn’t care about the detective, the friend, the victims, anybody. Charitably, $0.75.