Friday, February 19, 2010


Imagine a Poverty-Row studio plunking Nick and Nora Charles down in an Agatha Christie mystery with a "Hound of the Baskervilles" twist. If that sounds like your cup of tea, you'll like this modest comedy-thriller. On a stormy night, Wallace Ford and Barbara Pepper, two detectives, are supposed to meet a justice of the peace at an inn called the Red Rock Tavern, out in the middle of nowhere, to get married. When they arrive, they find a motley group of people sitting in the lobby waiting for a guy named Wentworth, who supposedly wrote to all of them to set up the meeting. Soon, one of their number is found dead, his throat apparently ripped out by a mad dog. Wentworth arrives and claims he was sent a letter just like the rest of them. Suddenly, the doors are all locked from the outside and the windows barred, and the mad dog seems to be hunting them all down one by one. The negative points: as with most movies of the low, low budget variety, there is virtually no background music; some line flubs are left in; the writing is not top-notch, with lots of plot loopholes, the biggest being that we get very little backstory on any characters, especially the central detective duo. The pluses: the solution is tricky and satisfying, and the camerawork is inventive, with lots of interesting tracking shots. Ford and Pepper are OK; the cast includes Joan Woodbury as an exotically accented fortune teller, and Clara Kimball Young and John Elliott as the managers of the inn. I could have done without some of the forced humor, mostly foisted off on Ford and Pepper. It was distributed by a short-lived company called Puritan Pictures. The Alpha DVD is not in the best shape, but a better print is unlikely to turn up. [DVD]

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