Monday, June 18, 2012


A man (John Miljan) wakes up in a mansion, confused, unsure of his whereabouts, apparently a victim of amnesia.  He questions his butler who tells him he is the wealthy Jerry Werrenden.  But Miljan isn't quite as confused as he seems; he punches the butler in the face, knocking him out, then interrogates him again, getting him to admit he's an actor hired to play a butler.  Miljan does remember who he is: a gentleman thief known as the Sparrow.  Soon he finds out what's going on. Werrenden's wife Chloe (Shirley Grey) has conspired with Colton (Monroe Owsley), her husband's business partner, to swindle hubby out of $200,000 of bonds, supposedly the last of the estate that Werrenden has frittered away.  Miljan is a dead ringer for the husband, so the two drugged him (in circumstances not made clear) and kidnapped him in hopes that he would help them out.  He agrees to pose as Warrenden, meet the family banker, known as the Colonel (Hale Hamilton), and accept the bonds.  That meeting seems to go well, but on the receipt for the bonds, the Colonel has penned in $300,000 instead of $200,000.  Who's conning who?  And where's the husband during these shenanigans?

The plot twists and turns continue, but it wouldn't be fair to spoil the rest of the surprises in this interesting pre-Code film.  The story is quite clever, but because it's from a Poverty Row studio (Invincible Pictures), the production isn't quite up to par, so much of the plot is unveiled through dialogue and exposition rather than action.  Suffice to say that by the end of the movie, practically every character has been shown to be guilty of something either illegal or immoral and yet only one gets punished in any sense of the word, and even that one manages to elude the law.  All the actors are fine; Miljan is a bit bland in a role that William Powell could have done better in his sleep, but he's alright.  Grey, who never broke out of B films, has a bit of a Myrna Loy thing going on, and Owsley (in my eyes a dead ringer for Paul Reubens--pictured above with Grey) makes a nicely slimy character.  Available on DVD from Alpha, and though it's a dicey print, it's definitely worth watching.  [DVD]

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