Saturday, April 06, 2002


This is B-movie mystery material that seems to have been given A-movie treatment, resulting in a fun, atmospheric film with a truly unique frame: apparently, the story was originally done as a 6-part radio play without a conclusion. Listeners were then invited to submit their ideas about "whodunit" and the mystery was finally wrapped up with the release of the movie. After an introducion by a radio announcer (who seems genuinely uncomfortable in front of a camera), the story begins with Karen Morley as a woman who is in the process of blackmailing a number of rich and important men with whom she has had dalliances. Her motive seems to be to get a lot of money quickly and retire for life. She gets H.B. Warner to gather the men at his estate, Crestwood, for a party where she will drop her bomb. Anita Louise is Morley's sister who is set to marry Warner's son, but Pauline Fredrick, as Warner's sister, doesn't want that to happen (her nephew is too good for Morley's sister). Ricardo Cortez is a crook who has been hired to steal some of Morley's letters.

Everyone winds up at Crestwood, trapped for the night due to storms and mudslides. Morley ends up dead with a dart in her neck and Cortez turns detective to clear himself before the police arrive at dawn. Practically everyone in the house has a motive, and like a good mystery, there are red herrings and surprise discoveries along the way, including a ghostly figure that crops up from time to time, with the face of a former suitor of Morley's who killed himself (or so it seemed). Flashback sequences are done in a odd technique in which the camera pans back then zips around in circles to stop abruptly and pan back in at the flashback scene. A very good example of the trapped-in-a-house thriller genre, complete with secret passages and a climax played out in the mist just before dawn. Definitely worth catching.

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