Friday, September 30, 2016


Private detective Humphrey Campbell (Chester Morris) was hired to find Louise (Jean Parker), a missing heiress, and when he found her, he married her. Now they're in Reno on their honeymoon, which doesn't stop his boss Oscar from tracking him down to take on another missing persons case, this one involving Hal Benedict, the son of a wealthy rancher. Humphrey doesn't want it, but Oscar promises Louise a mink coat if she can talk him into it, and of course she does (otherwise, there'd be no movie). Thus are Humphrey and Louise thrown into a most convoluted mystery. Hal was supposed to marry his father's ward Rose, but according to a bar pianist, Hal was dating Irene; when Humphrey goes to visit her, he finds her dead with Rose hiding in the house, insisting that Irene was dead when she arrived. Meanwhile, Humphrey gets involved with a brassy blonde named Gypsy (which makes Louise jealous), a couple of FBI agents also looking for Hal, and a gang of bank robbers led by Red Harris (Dick Purcell) who think that Humphrey is a former gang member turned snitch. Two more developments: it turns out that Rose was engaged to Tom Reed, a foreman on the Campbell ranch; and Hal had hired a Reno private investigator named Copley to get back love letters to Irene that were being used to blackmail him.

There is much more to this B-mystery, and it is a credit to the filmmakers that, though the proceedings get murky, I was for the most part able to straggle along with the labyrinthine plot and enjoy the movie. Morris makes a fine leading man, and he has good chemistry with Parker; the two are pictured above in a slapstick shower scene. The film is based on a book in a series by Geoffrey Homes that featured Campbell; another one was adapted a few years later as CRIME BY NIGHT featuring Jerome Cowan as a re-named Sam Campbell. Morris makes a good fit and it's too bad that no more were made with him—instead he wound up spending much of the decade as another sleuth, Boston Blackie. There's a running gag about how much Campbell likes milk, even ordering it at bars, and how milk gives his wife a rash, but the payoff is very minor. Others in the cast include Astrid Allwyn as Gypsy, Rod Cameron as Reed, Grant Withers, Keye Luke, and Milburn Stone. Entertaining; if you find the plot hard to follow, just go along for the ride. (The title comes from a clock without hands above the entrance to a mortuary.) [YouTube]

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