Midnight Intruder (1938)

US / 67 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Arthur Lubin Scr: George Waggner, Lester Cole Story: Synthetic Gentleman (1934) by Channing Pollock Cine: Milton Krasner Cast: Louis Hayward, Eric Linden, J.C. Nugent, Barbara Read, Irving Bacon, Robert Greig, Pierre Watkin, Sheila Bromley, Paul Everton, Nana Bryant, Joe Crehan, Selmer Jackson, Jan Duggan, Polly Bailey, Aileen Carlyle, Guy Usher, Fay Helm, Eric Wilton, Matty Fain.

Midnight Intruder 1938 - 0 opener

Near-grifters Barry Gilbert (Hayward) and his elderly chum Doc Norton (Nugent), having been cleaned out at the races, hitch a ride to Belmont, New York State, where Barry’s convinced he can get a job, even if it’s only flipping burgers—after all, he’s had jobs before, as a journalist, an actor, a . . . The pair get a lift in the back of a truck, but when the driver turns off they have to climb out—in the middle of both the night and a rainstorm. The dialogue says they’re in Westchester; a bit of documentary evidence onscreen suggests Pleasantville. They creep up to a deserted house, break in, and prepare for a night of comfort before hitting the road again.

Midnight Intruder 1938 - 1 Barry begins to get used to the luxury lifeBarry (Louis Hayward) begins to get used to the life of luxury.

But just then Continue reading

Spanish Cape Mystery, The (1935)

US / 74 minutes / bw / Liberty, Republic Dir: Lewis D. Collins Pr: M.H. Hoffman Scr: Albert DeMond Story: The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) by Ellery Queen Cine: Gilbert Warrenton Cast: Helen Twelvetrees, Donald Cook, Berton Churchill, Frank Sheridan, Harry Stubbs, Guy Usher, Huntly Gordon, Jack La Rue, Betty Blythe, Olaf Hytten, Ruth Gillette, Frank Leigh, Barbara Bedford, George Baxter, Katherine Morrow, Arnold Gray, Donald Kerr, Lee Prather, George Cleveland, Arthur Aylesworth, Richard Cramer.

Spanish Cape Mystery - 0 opener

This first screen outing for the doyen of US detectives, Ellery Queen, is better than what I’ve seen of the Ralph Bellamy-starring series that followed a few years later—and one of which, Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring (1941), I describe here—but this doesn’t constitute the highest of praise. It’s a fairly standard B detective mystery of its day, although with the advantage that the screenwriters saw fit not to give us a detective oozing with quirk; the Ellery portrayed here is if anything less quirky than the Ellery depicted in the original novel, who was more along Philo Vance lines. It’s almost as if Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, the two cousins who together wrote under the Queen byline, took a tip from this movie, because, as the print Ellery evolved, he became more like this one.

Ellery (Cook) and his much older good friend Judge Macklin (Churchill) decide to take a vacation together in California—on Spanish Cape, to be precise, where Macklin has Continue reading

Mystery Man, The (1935)

US / 62 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Raymond McCarey Pr: George Yohalem Scr: John Krafft, Rollo Lloyd, Wm. A. Johnston Story: Tate Finn Cine: Harry Neumann Cast: Robert Armstrong, Maxine Doyle, Henry Kolker, James Burke, Guy Usher, LeRoy Mason, Dell Henderson, Monte Collins, Norman Houston, James Burtis, Otto Fries, Sam Lufkin, Lee Shumway, Sam Flint.

Having solved the Upshaw murder case, investigative crime reporter Larry Doyle (Armstrong) of the Chicago Record—or Chicago World News (the movie offers both names)—is presented by a grateful police commission with a police-issue .45 revolver and by his managing editor, Elwyn (or Ellwyn) A. “Jo-Jo” Jonas (Kolker), with $50 from the newspaper’s owners. Larry uses part of the $50 to go out and get hammered with his reporting colleagues Dunn (Collins), Whalen (Burtis) and Weeks (Lufkin). When Jo-Jo finds them, Larry insults him, is fired on the spot and, next he knows, is arriving on the train in St. Louis with a hangover and barely a dollar to his name.

At the rail station he runs into pretty Ann Ogilvie (Doyle), who’s even broker than he is. Despite token resistance from her, he talks their way into the honeymoon suite of the swanky Commodore Hotel, whose manager, Clark (Henderson), believes they’re rich. Larry wires Jo-Jo for money and is given the brush-off; when he applies for a job at the St. Louis Daily News, Jo-Jo tells the city editor, Marvin (Burke), that Larry’s a faker, and Larry’s thrown out. In desperation, Larry and Ann take Larry’s presentation .45 to a pawnshop, whose owner, Nate (Fries), promptly sells it on to The Eel (Mason), a gangster who has been terrorizing the city and, after each new crime, phoning the authorities and the newspapers to taunt them.

That night Larry and Ann take the money from the pawn to the Trocadero Club in hopes of gambling it up to riches. As they leave, having failed in that, they find themselves caught up in The Eel’s latest robbery. Just before The Eel emerges from the club, his getaway man and a cop kill each other in a shootout. Larry takes refuge in the car; The Eel, not realizing his driver’s dead, kills a plainclothes cop, gives Larry the loot, and saunters back into the club, all innocent-like.

Mystery Man - the getaway man (uncredited) starts the gunplay

A getaway man and a cop (both uncredited) kill each other in a shootout outside the Trocadero Club.

Marvin, galvanized by the possibility of the scoop of the age, hires Larry. However, it proves The Eel was Continue reading