The Missing Lady (1946)

US / 60 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Phil Karlson Pr: Joe Kaufman Scr: George Callahan Story: Stories in Shadow Magazine based on characters created by Walter B. Gibson Cine: William Sickner Cast: Kane Richmond, Barbara Reed (i.e., Barbara Read), George Chandler, James Flavin, Pierre Watkin, Dorothea Kent, James Cardwell, Claire Carleton, Jack Overman, Jo Carroll Dennison, Frances Robinson, Almira Sessions, Nora Cecil, George Lewis, Dewey Robinson, Anthony Warde, Bert Roach, George Lessey, Douglas Wood.

The third and mercifully the last of Monogram’s series of The Shadow B-features. Surprise, surprise, but The Shadow/Lamont Cranston (Richmond) finds himself accused of murders he didn’t commit—although, as Lamont himself points out, there’s a variation in the formula: last time, in Behind the Mask (1946), Lamont had to clear The Shadow of murders he didn’t commit; this time The Shadow has to clear Lamont.

Barbara Read as Margo (left) and Dorothea Kent as Jennie

Wealthy collector James Douglas (Lessey) is murdered in his home and a valuable statuette, the Jade Lady, is stolen. The obvious culprit, so far as we viewers are concerned, is hoodlum Ox Walsh (Overman), whose enmity Continue reading

Behind the Mask (1946)

US / 68 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Phil Karlson, possibly augmented on bad days by William Beaudine Pr: Joe Kaufmann Scr: George Callahan Story: Arthur Hoerl, based on characters created by Walter B. Gibson and stories in Shadow Magazine Cine: William Sickner Cast: Kane Richmond, Barbara Reed (i.e., Barbara Read), George Chandler, Dorothea Kent, Joseph Crehan, Pierre Watkin, Robert Shayne, June Clyde, James Cardwell, Marjorie Hoshelle, Joyce Compton, Ed Gargan, Lou Crosby, Bill Christy, Nancy Brinckman, Dewey Robinson, Jean Carlin, Laura Stevens.

Kane Richmond as Lamont and Barbara Read as Margo

In the second of Monogram’s three installments of Shadow chronicles—the first was The Shadow Returns (1946)—the “humor” has been allowed to swallow up entirely any elements of suspense that might have been there.

On the eve of the marriage between Lamont (Richmond) and his secretary, Margo (Read), someone impersonating The Shadow knocks off blackmailing journalist Jeff “Man About Town” Mann of the Daily Bulletin (Cardwell) and—for no apparent reason—a Continue reading

The Shadow Returns (1946)

US / 61 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Phil Rosen Pr: Joe Kaufman Scr: George Callahan Story: Walter B. Gibson for the character and the stories in Shadow Magazine. Cine: William Sickner Cast: Kane Richmond, Barbara Reed (i.e., Barbara Read), Tom Dugan, Joseph Crehan, Pierre Watkin, Robert Emmett Keane, Frank Reicher, Lester Dorr, Rebel Randall, Emmett Vogan, Sherry Hall, Cyril Delevanti.

This was the first of three comedy-crime adaptations to screen of Walter B. Gibson’s famous pulp character that Poverty Row studio Monogram released in 1946. The other two were Behind the Mask and The Missing Lady. This one had Phil Rosen at the helm (although it has been reported that William Beaudine did some filling in); the other two were done by Phil Karlson.

Lamont Cranston (Richmond) is outwardly a respectable young man of business who never seems to do any work; because he’s the cherished nephew of Police Commissioner J.R. Weston (Watkin), he and his secretary/fiancée Margo Lane (Read) are allowed to horn in on police investigations, to the ill concealed fury of Inspector Cardona (Crehan).

But there’s more to Lamont Cranston than meets the eye. His secret persona is as The Shadow, a mysterious vigilante crime-solver who, on donning his special garb—a mask and fedora—slips unobtrusively from Continue reading

The Strange Mrs. Crane (1948)

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You can’t leave your past behind!
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vt Beyond Reasonable Doubt; vt Guilty Woman
US / 62 minutes / bw / John Sutherland Productions, Pathe, Eagle–Lion Dir: Sherman Scott (i.e., Sam Newfield) Pr: John Sutherland Scr: Al Martin Story: Frank Burt, Robert Libott Cine: Jack Greenhalgh Cast: Marjorie Lord, Robert Shayne, Pierre Watkin, James Seay, Ruthe Brady, Claire Whitney, Mary Gordon, Chester Clute, Dorothy Granger, Charles Williams, Emmett Vogan.

A cracker of a minor film noir that seems to have passed under just about everybody’s radar—mine included, until now.

Jenny Hadley (Lord) used to be in partnership with Floyd Durant (Shayne) in a blackmailing racket: she’d get into compromising positions with married men (like Comstock in Chicago who “fell so hard for her he wouldn’t even go to the police”) while Floyd did the rest. As you’d expect, it wasn’t just in their extortioning game that Jenny and Floyd were partnered.

Marjorie Lord as the very respectable Mrs. Crane . . . but in reality
a femme fatale.

Now, though, Jenny has left her life of crime—and Floyd—behind, and has become ultra-respectable Mrs. Gina Crane, wife of the much older lawyer Clinton Crane (Watkin), who’s the pundits’ favorite to triumph in the upcoming state gubernatorial race.

When Clinton wins his primary, Gina (as we’ll call her for convenience) reminds him of his promise to Continue reading

Phantom Speaks, The (1945)

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What possessed him to commit murder?
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US / 69 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: John English Pr: Donald H. Brown Scr: John K. Butler Cine: William Bradford Cast: Richard Arlen, Stanley Ridges, Lynne Roberts, Tom Powers, Charlotte Wynters, Jonathan Hale, Pierre Watkin, Marian Martin (i.e., Marion Martin), Garry Owen, Ralf Harolde, Doreen McCann, Joseph Granby, Bob Alden, Charles Sullivan.

The Phantom Speaks - closer

It begins, as so many stories do, in a park. Frankie Teal (Harolde) is there, having come in response to a note from his mistress:

“Frankie:
Harvey out of town. Meet me in the park at noon. Usual place. Important.
Betty.”

But the person who meets Frankie isn’t Betty at all: it’s Harvey Bogardus (Powers), Betty’s husband and a ruthless self-made man. He Continue reading

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

Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring (1941)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Darmour, Columbia Dir: James Hogan Pr: Larry Darmour Scr: Eric Taylor, Gertrude Purcell Story: Ellery Queen Cine: James S. Brown Jr. Cast: Ralph Bellamy, Margaret Lindsay, Charley Grapewin, Mona Barrie, Paul Hurst, James Burke, Leon Ames, George Zucco, Blanche Yurka, Charlotte Wynters, Tom Dugan, Olin Howlin, Dennis Moore, Jean Fenwick, Pierre Watkin.

Many of the detectives of classic mystery fiction are in essence mildly comic figures—Lord Peter Wimsey, Hercule Poirot, Albert Campion, Ellery Queen—yet their creators manage to imbue them with some necessary gravitas to match the seriousness of the crimes they solve. Modern screen adaptations of the relevant tales generally try to perform the same trick—just think of the long TV series of Poirot adventures starring David Suchet. Here, though, the moviemakers took the rather fey, cerebral Ellery Queen, turned him into a lunk, and put him at the heart of a clumsy comedy. This was the fourth and last of the Columbia series in which a hopelessly miscast Bellamy played the detective; William Gargan took over the role for three further movies and then, mercifully, the series ended.

Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring - 1 Augusta Stack

The testy matriarch Augusta Stack (Blanche Yurka).

Wealthy widow Augusta Stack (Yurka) calls in the cops because she’s concerned there might be a conspiracy of malpractice going on at the hospital she owns, the Stack Memorial Hospital. To keep the matter quiet, Inspector Richard Queen (Grapewin) sends his novelist/detective son Ellery (Bellamy) to investigate undercover. Claiming to have lost his voice, Ellery is examined by the hospital’s chief physician, Edward F. Janney (Zucco), who diagnoses the problem as psychological and admits Ellery to the hospital. Ellery calls his secretary, Nikki Porter (Lindsay), to join him as his “private nurse”.

Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring - 3 Nikki

Nikki Porter (Margaret Lindsay) in her guise as nurse.

Meanwhile, Continue reading