Tuesday, April 19, 2016


On car #1 of the Midnight Limited from Albany to Montreal, a man who is traveling with $75,000 worth of diamonds is robbed in the dark, and when the woman in the compartment next door (Marjorie Reynolds) tries to stop the shadowy thief, he steals some important papers of hers. The crook apparently manages to get off the train, though no one actually sees him leave. The investigating detective (John King) has his suspicions about the baggage handler (Monty Collins), but he can't prove anything. A few days later, a man carrying $60,000 in cash is robbed in the same way, and this time King's partner is killed in the process, so King enlists Reynolds' aid—she's the only person who's actually seen the thief, though only briefly and in the dark. King discovers that the two previous victims had stayed at the Ritz Plaza hotel and both had made travel arrangements through the same clerk, so they lay a trap with King staying at the hotel and posing as someone traveling with a lot of dough. Will the trap work? And more importantly, will King and Reynolds realize they should be falling in love?

This is a remarkably tedious B-movie during which I fell asleep twice (and it's only an hour long); I returned to it only because I like mysteries set on trains. This is weak in almost every element: dialogue, characterization, acting, and sets. I want to cut poor John King some slack, but when the lead actor is weak, it's difficult for a film to overcome that flaw. King comes off like a very enthusiastic amateur rushing through his lines so he can get to the next scene, so to criticize him feels a bit like kicking a puppy. He eventually found a niche in Hollywood playing a character named Dusty King in the "Range Busters" series of B-Westerns. Many critics like Reynolds here, but though she is more competent, she's awfully bland.  George Cleveland should give a slam-dunk performance as a comic-relief eccentric professor who travels on the Midnight Limited—and is part of the key to the solution—but even he can't bring the film to life. The plot point involving the hotel clerk is as close to interesting as the movie ever gets, unless you count the weird moment when King sits down at a piano in an Italian diner and sings to Reynolds—the less said about that, the better. [Streaming]

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