By Whose Hand? (1932)

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Killer on a train!
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US / 65 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Ben Stoloff Scr: Isadore Bernstein, Stephen Roe Story: Harry Adler Cine: Teddy Tetzlaff Cast: Ben Lyon, Barbara Weeks, Kenneth Thomson, Ethel Kenyon, William V. Mong, Dolores Rey (i.e., Dolores Ray), Nat Pendleton, Tom Dugan, Dwight Frye, William Halligan, Helene Millard, Lorin Baker, Oscar Smith, Tom McGuire, DeWitt Jennings, Buddy Roosevelt, Polly Walters.

Through the 1930s and 1940s, the bottom half of the cinema bill was thronged with—was almost defined by, if you ignored the oaters—comedy-crime movies like this one. Some of them were pretty good and are fondly remembered. Others, like the godawful BOSTON BLACKIE series starring the godawful Chester Morris—through all of which your correspondent has glumly sat—were, well, you heard it here first: godawful.

By Whose Hand?, which has the probably illusory feel of being a pilot for an unmade series starring ace journalist Jimmy Hawley, Continue reading

Night to Remember, A (1942)

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Loretta Young and Brian Aherne crack a murder case and some not very good jokes!
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vt Number Thirteen Gay Street; vt The Frightened Stiff
US / 88 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Richard Wallace Pr: Samuel Bischoff Scr: Richard Flournoy, Jack Henley Story: The Frightened Stiff (1942) by Kelley Roos Cine: Joseph Walker Cast: Loretta Young, Brian Aherne, Jeff Donnell, William Wright, Sidney Toler, Gale Sondergaard, Donald MacBride, Lee Patrick, Don Costello, Richard Gaines, Blanche Yurka, James Burke, Harry Harvey, Cy Kendall, George Lloyd, George Chandler.

There’s a very famous movie called A Night to Remember. Directed by Roy Ward Baker in 1958, with a screenplay by Eric Ambler, it stars Kenneth More with Geoffrey Bayldon, Honor Blackman, Anthony Bushell, John Cairney, Sean Connery, Kenneth Griffith, Andrew Keir, Frank Lawton, David McCallum, Alec McCowen, Laurence Naismith, Russell Napier, Harold Siddons, Jack Watling and a horde of others, and is regarded as the best extant movie tracing the final hours of the “unsinkable” Titanic, which sank in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

This is not that movie.

Nor is it the inauguration of a comedy-crime series to rival the THIN MAN, although there are sufficient resemblances in the setup to make one speculate that this was the intention; here, though, Continue reading

Fat Man, The (1951)

US / 77 minutes / bw / Universal International Dir: William Castle Pr: Aubrey Schenck Scr: Harry Essex, Leonard Lee Story: Leonard Lee Cine: Irving Glassberg Cast: J. Scott Smart, Julie London, Rock Hudson, Clinton Sundberg, Jayne Meadows, John Russell, Jerome Cowan, Emmett Kelly, Lucille Barkley, Robert Osterloh, Harry Lewis, Teddy Hart, Robert Roark, Ken Niles.

California dentist Dr. Henry Bromley (Niles), visiting NYC for a conference, is hurled from a high window of his hotel; the only thing missing from his room is a set of dental X-rays. His assistant Jane Adams (Meadows) discovers the body, the theft and a note in the dead man’s diary that he has made an appointment to see PI Brad Runyan (Smart). Accordingly, she goes to see Runyan herself.

Fat Man - Jayne Meadows as dental assistant Jane Adams

Jayne Meadows as dental assistant Jane Adams.

He’s initially uninterested but, when she feels she’s being tailed and is frightened someone might try to knock her off in NYC, at least tells his fey assistant Bill Norton (Sundberg) to escort her to the airport. Bill is sapped by an unknown assailant, which persuades Runyan—an obsessive gourmet who well merits his nickname of The Fat Man—that there may be something in Jane’s fears after all. Runyan and Bill go with her to California.

Fat Man - J. Scott Smart in the eponymous role

J. Scott Smart in the eponymous role.

There they discover that the duplicate of the set of dental X-rays purloined in NYC has Continue reading