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Although his murdered friend was by all accounts a scoundrel a true "bounder" Edward Wales is determined to trap his killer by staging a seance using a famous medium. Many of the 13 seance participants had a reason and a means to kill, and one of them uses the cover of darkness to kill again. When someone close to the medium is suspected she turns detective, in the hope of uncovering the true murderer. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
This seems to have been the first major film role film for Bela Lugosi. He dominates the film entirely, with tremendous confidence and panache. Two years later, he and the same director, Tod Browning, would make their famous horror classic 'Dracula' (1931) together. This film is based on a stage play by Bayard Veiller, whose wife, Margaret Wycherley, played the medium both on stage and in the film, to great effect. Since talkies only commenced the year before, this 1929 film does very well in the sound department. What is really terrible about it is the editing, some of the worst any feature film ever had: a woman gets up from her chair and exits frame and we wait for some time, then we cut to the next frame and wait an endless age for her to enter that frame. Really appalling! Tod Browning either had no control over this process or had not learned to direct properly yet. Despite the slow pace and creaky nature of the production, the film nevertheless manages to be intriguing in its excellently complex mystery plot. It is one of those 'people in a room in the dark' films: whodunnit? There are plenty of surprises. The story is ostensibly set in Calcutta, under the Empire, although shot entirely in a studio. It is an interesting study of how British Empire types behaved in the 1920s, hence of considerable social history interest as a 'document'. (They don't come out of it well, being so arch, false, and over-mannered that one does not regret their passing.) The main action centres round a seance and the activities of a medium, in connection with trying to solve the murder of someone who was 'an out and out rotter'. Despite its shortcomings, this film is still entertaining and worth watching.
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