Sunday, June 11, 2006


Based on a trilogy of stories by Robert Louis Stevenson, this minor adventure/romance with a slightly dark edge (which would certainly be exploited more fully if it were made today) doesn't quite live up to its potential but is nevertheless a decent vehicle for its stars, Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell. Montgomery is a frivolous playboy prince who is happy that his long-arranged marriage to a foreign princess has been canceled. We learn there are anarchists who have recently been ousted from the country but who may be in hiding and who are after the prince, so the king sends him to London on a vacation with army colonel Frank Morgan. On board, he is captivated by a mysterious lady (Russell) who says she's being pursued and asks for his help in smuggling some secrets off the ship; Montgomery is happy to help, but when they land, he finds that she has vanished and that the secrets are just a bundle of blank sheets of paper. Looking for a little diversion in town, he discovers the existence of a Suicide Club, where people who are tired of living pay stiff fees to be part of a nightly drawing of cards: one person is chosen to be the killer and one is chosen to be killed. The murder then occurs in the next 24 hours. Apparently thinking it would be a nice adventure, Montgomery joins up and sees Russell among the group. Eventually she is chosen to be his executioner and the plot takes a number of twists, some predictable, some not, on the way to a fairly exciting finale. At 75 minutes, it feels a bit rushed by the end; a little more time for the plot to play out would have allowed for better character development. Russell, an actor who was generally only as good as her material, is good here, as is her leading man. Reginald Owen, in a bald head cap and looking like the Scrooge he was for MGM a couple of years later, is fine as the villainous head of the Suicide Club, and Louis Hayward shines in a small but important role which is billed as "Young Man with Cream Tarts." There is a brief but amusing bit involving a dog on trial for murder. [TCM]

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