Monday, June 23, 2014


Police sergeant Velis (James Burke) boards a train to New York; he is escorting Reese, a suspect in the murder of Dutch jewel merchant Van Dorn and they're handcuffed together. Also on board are the very Germanic Heinrich (Sig Ruman) and his henchman who manage to knock Velis out and get Reese away from him, at which point they throw Reese off the train to his death. As it happens, Ellery Queen (William Gargan) and his secretary Nikki (Margaret Lindsay) are also on the train and when Velis is fired by the chief inspector (Charley Grapewin) who is also Queen's father, Queen agrees to help Velis get his job back by digging into the mystery. It winds up involving a mummy case imported from Cairo which has diamonds in it that are being smuggled away from the Nazis by Van Dorn's widow (Gale Sondergaard), and that's what Heinrich and his men are after. I like Gargan but there is so much going on and so many characters that he winds up fading into the background. Even the scene-stealing Sondergaard doesn't get much of a chance to shine. Familiar faces include Gilbert Roland as the mysterious Mr. Gillette, Minor Watson as Commodore Lang, an old friend of the Queens, and James Seay as a Marine who is handy with his fists and who helps Queen out in the fisticuffs-filled finale. This works better as a spy thriller (or a wartime propaganda piece) than as a detective series entry, as there is little to make this seem distinctively an Ellery Queen story.  (YouTube)

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