Friday, December 13, 2013


Stage actor Wylie Thornton, currently appearing in the play Isle of Romance, is quite a ladies' man. Young Anise, an actress in the play, thinks that Wylie will marry her as soon as his divorce from his estranged wife is final. Doris, an heiress, thinks that Wylie will run off with her. And it turns out that Wylie isn't really intending to divorce his wife, Alma—she is traveling with him as his secretary, though no one knows they're married. When the lights go out at a backstage birthday party for Wylie, he blows out the candles on the cake and then is promptly shot to death. The suspects include all of the above and more: Doris's former sweetheart, Carey, and her father the Major, who both opposed Doris's affair, and Lola, Anise's protective sister. There’s even a mischievous backstage chimp who can get in and out of his cage on his own with ease; she loved Wylie and even kisses a picture of him she keeps in her cage, but could she also be the jealous type?

This short (one hour) B-mystery feels very much like an episode of a 50s or 60s detective show. The first half is the set-up of the characters and situations, followed by the murder and the investigation by two cops, one (C. Aubrey Smith, pictured) who is older and sometimes acts like a bumpkin but is wiser than he acts, and one (Sam Hardy) who is younger, brash, and too sure of himself—whenever he gets a new clue, he's sure he's cracked the case and exclaims, "It's in the bag!" Smith and Hardy work well together, and a series featuring these two would have been welcome. Other notable names in the cast include Dorothy Mackaill (Lola), Paul Cavanagh (Wylie), Natalie Moorhead (Alma), and Russell Hopton as a lurking reporter. There are some interesting transitions in which a new scene slides in from the side, and an early Hitler reference (he had just become chancellor that year). The ending feels gimmicky and is a little disappointing, but it's memorable. The Alpha DVD has some jumps and skips but isn't in too bad a shape. [DVD]

No comments: