Tuesday, October 27, 2015


We see, as the title promises, a frightened lady, screaming in the night at the bottom of a staircase in an old dark house. She is Isla (Penelope Dudley Ward, at left), secretary to Lady Lebanon, and her scream was caused by the sight of two figures in the shadows who turn out to be Lady Lebanon's two somewhat mysterious footmen, Brooks and Gilder. Isla calms down, but is upset to discover that a bolt has been put on the outside of her bedroom door to keep her locked in at night. The house is also inhabited by Lady Lebanon's effete son, Lord Lebanon (Marius Goring) who spends all day playing the piano and seeming distracted. A Dr. Amersham is a frequent visitor; we suspect that either he has an unwholesome hold over Lady Lebanon or vice versa. Lady Lebanon (Helen Haye) is pressuring Isla, a distant cousin, into marrying Lord Lebanon, though Isla is sweet on visiting architect Richard Ferraby. At a costume ball, Studd, the chauffeur, dances with the wife of groundskeeper Tilling, creating a brief scene, and when Studd is found dead, strangled with an Indian scarf, suspicion falls on Tilling until Detective Tanner finds a drawerful of scarves in Dr. Amersham's room. But when Amersham himself is found dead, the hunt for suspects is back on. Why did Lady Lebanon burn the only bit of evidence in Amersham's death? And why is she so adamant that no one enter the room of her late husband, kept locked since his death? And is Lord Lebanon being poisoned as he suspects?

This little-seen British thriller is a nice treat, full of atmosphere, good plotting—based on a novel by prolific British author Edgar Wallace—decent acting, and some tricky twists, even though any mystery fan will know exactly who the killer is from fairly early on. There is a lot of plot but the threads always remain clear. Goring is especially good as Lord Lebanon—is he just an eccentric or is he a little batty? His relationship with Isla is especially well played—they truly seem like they are fond of each other but neither has romantic feelings. I'd never heard of Helen Haye, but she's quite good as Lady Lebanon who has more screen time than anyone else here. John Warwick as Studd and Torin Thatcher as Tilling are standouts in the supporting cast. Nicely done all around. [YouTube]

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