Thursday, July 03, 2008


A Poverty-Row mystery with a nifty twist. Someone has been killing stockbrokers, then stopping and asking a nearby witness for the time. At the site of the latest murder, the witness is a slightly drunk janitor (Luis Alberni) who pegs well-dressed, well-known philanthropist Lionel Atwill as the killer, but everyone knows that Atwill is a deaf-mute, who, as a doctor testifies at the trial, was born with paralyzed vocal cords and could not have asked for the time, so Atwill is exonerated. Reporter Theodore Newton has a hunch that somehow Atwill is indeed behind the string of killings, though Newton's girlfriend (Sheila Terry) is equally sure that it couldn't be such a nice guy. She begins visiting Atwill at his mansion to collect material for a story on his life, and he starts to fall for her. Newton tries to trick Atwill into showing that he can hear, but nothing works, though he does get a strange reaction out of the deaf-mute when Newton plunks at Atwill's piano. That piano turns out to be a key to the mystery, but will the solution come at the cost of Terry's life? Mystery fans will have no trouble figuring out what's going on, but the film is fun anyway, in spite of the low budget production (sparse sets--except for the opening office building hallway--little background music, sluggish pacing, a couple of Newton's blown lines left in). The basic idea for the movie is good but the script is weak; for example, there is no clear reason given for Newton to continue suspecting Atwill except that otherwise there'd be no movie. Atwill is always fun to watch in his villainous roles, though here he stumbles a bit; when he uses sign language, he flips his fingers around like a little kid playing at sign language. Luckily, his hands are kept mostly at the very edge of the camera range, so it's not too distracting. The Alpha DVD print is so-so. [DVD]

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