Friday, October 04, 2002


With that title, this movie doesn't sound like it has much potential for Halloween-month viewing, but in the last ten minutes, some very effective scary-movie elements come into play. It's hard to believe that this fast-paced, hour-long thriller was produced by David O. Selznick, known later more for much bigger films like GONE WITH THE WIND and REBECCA. It starts off like a fairly average cop story (albeit with French cops) and turns into a nifty little mystery with a horror movie atmosphere. Frank Morgan is an inspector involved in three cases that wind up connected: tracking down a cop killer, looking for a missing flower girl (Gwili Andre), and keeping an eye on a shady character (Gregory Ratoff) who claims to have the missing Russian princess Anastasia in his custody. It turns out Ratoff has kidnapped the flower girl and hypnotized her into thinking she really is Anastasia to pull a scam on Russian royalty. A gentleman thief (John Warburton) who is sweet on the girl helps break the case.

The first half is a little slow getting going; several characters and plot points are brought up and then are dropped completely or become irrelevant (including the effective opening scene at the secret funeral of the dead policeman). Ratoff (Max the producer in ALL ABOUT EVE) is a fairly good villain, sounding a lot like Bela Lugosi. Morgan underacts for a change, except in a comic relief scene where he pretends to be drunk. Horror and action serial elements include a startling car accident, a big old house with secret passages, women who are killed and turned into statues (allowing a rare explicit bare breast shot), and a climax in a "mad doctor"-type lab. An actor named Arnold Korff, playing a Russian duke who comes to examine Ratoff's supposed Anastasia, resembles the older John Gielgud. Andre herself, who didn't wind up having much of a career, looks a lot like Myrna Loy once she's done up like a Russian princess. Some of the scenes in Ratoff's house were shot on sets from THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. Considering I had never heard of this movie, it was surprisingly brisk and fun (and even scary) and should hold up well to second and third viewings.

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