Homicide for Three (1948)

vt An Interrupted Honeymoon; vt Whispers in the Dark
US / 60 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: George Blair Assoc Pr: Stephen Auer Scr: Bradbury Foote, Albert DeMond Story: A Puzzle for Puppets (1944) by Patrick Quentin Cine: John MacBurnie Cast: Audrey Long, Warren Douglas, Grant Withers, Lloyd Corrigan, Stephanie Bachelor, George Lynn, Tala Birell, Benny Baker, Joseph Crehan, Sid Tomack, Dick Elliott, Eddie Dunn, John Newland, Billy Curtis, Patsy Moran.

It’s a very long time since last I read Patrick Quentin’s A Puzzle for Puppets (1944), but as I recall it was a perfectly respectable little mystery novel. Unfortunately the geniuses at Republic chose to adapt it as a comedy mystery. The result is something that’s undoubtedly (mildly) entertaining throughout but that hardly satisfies someone in need of a Quentin/Duluths fix.

A year ago Peter (Douglas) and Iris Duluth (Long) married, but Peter was called off to naval service before they could spend their wedding night together. Now he’s been given a 36-hour furlough and the Duluths are combing LA for a hotel room for consummation purposes—a room that’s hard to find because there’s a convention in town.

Audrey Long as Iris Duluth.

They finally get a billet at the ultra-swanky Sherwood Hotel because a guest there, Mrs. Rose (Bachelor), better known in the circus world as Madame Collette, lends them her suite for the night—she won’t need it, she says, because she’s eloping tonight to Vegas.

Mrs. Rose and, later, a lecherous drunk in the hotel bar, Emmanuel Catt (Corrigan), mistake Iris for her somewhat more disreputable cousin, Mona Crawford; Catt also babbles liquidly that Mona is in dire danger because of “the red roses and the white.”

Warren Douglas as Peter Duluth.

Meanwhile, Peter’s naval uniform has been stolen while he took a Turkish bath and two PIs, Joe Hatch (Withers) and Bill Daggett (Lynn), have volunteered to help him get it back.

Stephanie Bachelor as Mrs. Rose.

Peter and Iris find Mona murdered. Later, another woman whom Catt warned was in danger, Rita Brown (Birell), is killed. The murderer is using Peter’s stolen uniform to frame him for the crimes; identity theft for the 1940s, in other words. And Catt hints there’s another murder on the way . . .

Grant Withers as Joe Hatch.

The adaptation is shoddy enough that it’s pretty obvious from the get-go who’s committing the murders. Further, after the requisite exposure of guilt in the final minutes you realize that some of the actions in the earlier parts of the movie in that case don’t make sense. The character of Emmanuel Catt doesn’t make much sense, either: it proves that he’s not just a drunk but a famous criminologist, which is why he knows about “the red roses and the white”; really, though, his criminological expertise is invoked solely so that he can quickly explain the backstory and motivation for the murders.

Lloyd Corrigan as Emmanuel Catt.

Relieving the mediocrity a tad are Audrey Long and the fact that some of the dialogue is quite clever; I’ve no idea if this latter aspect is thanks to the contributions of Albert DeMond, who’s given an “additional dialogue” credit. Here’s a sample:

Catt: “There’s tha’ beautiful girl again—young an’ tender an’ . . .”
Iris: “I’m getting older and tougher by the minute.”

Tala Birell as Rita Brown.

Audrey Long was a sort of Queen of the Bs who, if things had worked out differently, could just as well have been a Queen of the As. In 1952—the year that she married as her second husband the writer Leslie Charteris, creator of The Saint—she retired from the screen; she and Charteris remained married until his death in 1993. Among her noir credits were BORN TO KILL (1947; vt Lady of Deceit) and DESPERATE (1947). Her last movie was the oater Indian Uprising (1952), which by astonishing coincidence was reviewed by blogger-friend Colin at Riding the High Country on the very same day that I picked Homicide for Three from the stack to watch and write about here.

4 thoughts on “Homicide for Three (1948)

  1. Interesting to read this. I mentioned I wouldn’t mind seeing it for the Quentin connection but it does sound no better than middling. Still, even bearing in mind the shortcomings you found, I’d still give it a go should I run across it at some future date as these 40s mysteries, good and bad alike, always attract my attention.

    • The Quentin connection is really the movie’s major draw, but it’s as if the makers set out to eliminate anything that might be reminiscent of the novel, the characters, etc. There are other, far better Quentin adaptations around! This one, I’d suggest, is for completists only.

  2. Pingback: Homicide for Three (1948) – Ed;s Site.

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