Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Killer John Channing escapes from a mental asylum (by sneaking into the sheriff's car) and goes back to the Channing estate where his sister Lorinda rules the roost. She helped him escape so he could help her with a plan to test her family members who are waiting to hear how she plans to disperse her money and property. Two nephews and their wives are invited for the weekend; also present are Lorinda's doctor (another nephew), Lorinda's lawyer Peter, and her faithful secretary Mary (who is romantically involved with Peter), with John posing as a butler to keep an eye on the proceedings.  Lorinda then fakes her death with the cooperation of the doctor who gives her a serum that induces suspended animation, and the will is read: most of the estate goes to Mary, but a quarter of her money is hidden somewhere in the house and whoever finds it, gets it. The doc, who is supposed to give her an antidote, decides not to, and joins the others in their greedy hunt. Death practically stalks the house; first, Lorinda's pet raven is poisoned, someone is drugged, then a nurse is killed, then one of the nephews. Can Peter and Mary get to the bottom of this, retaining both their lives and Mary's share of the estate?

This is an old-dark-house movie with a light touch. Murder, bad behavior, and secret passages are present but a rather fizzy atmosphere is retained, including the presence of African-American comic relief actor Willie Best as the always frightened chauffeur. Though top billing is given to Craig Stevens as Peter and Elisabeth Fraser as Mary, the movie belongs to Milton Parsons (pictured) and Cecil Cunningham as the two most interesting characters, John and Lorinda. There are several twists along the way, mostly predictable but still fun, and the atmosphere brought to mind the eccentric mystery SH! THE OCTOPUS though this one is more straightforward and less daffy. A decent entry in the consistently entertaining Warner Bros. B-movies of the 40s. [DVD]

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