Friday, August 31, 2012


A B-mystery from MGM which is notable primarily for its cast of academic characters. Harry Davenport is retiring as head of the physics department at Trent University and a handful of candidates is vying to take his place. Dorothy Peterson thinks that as a woman, she doesn't have a chance, but her lover (Theodore von Eltz) might, especially since he's also casually dating Davenport's granddaughter (Florence Rice). However, Rice is sweet on the third candidate, young Dean Jagger, just back from a trip to some Mayan ruins—though what his work has to do with physics is never made clear. The likeliest candidate is Henry Daniell, who is on the verge of a breakthrough that could prove Einstein wrong, but what no one knows is that his wife (Sara Haden, pictured with Daniell), who suffers from a heart condition, is the one who did all the work on the formula. Now, a few days before Davenport is due to make his decision, Haden gives Daniell an ultimatum: drop his sexy young mistress or she won't give him the research notes he needs to make his formula public. One night at a faculty party, he throws her dog out a second-story window to its death, and the shock causes Haden to have a fatal heart attack. Then von Eltz winds up in the wrong place at the wrong time and Daniell has to kill him, too. Jagger is the first to fall under suspicion, but luckily, Trent alumnus Edmund Lowe is present and he just happens to be a renowned detective. There are another couple of deaths before Daniell is caught, and Rice is free to canoodle with Jagger. Lowe's character is named Christopher Cross and was apparently intended to have his own mystery series, but neither the character nor the actor is very interesting and a second film was never made. The first half-hour, in which all the backstories are set up, is interesting, but when it becomes a traditional cop story (with the entrance of Nat Pendleton as the dopey sergeant), it loses some steam. Daniell and Jagger are very good, with most everyone else just serviceable. The bulk of the film is set during the course of the one night, another little novelty. [TCM]

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