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15 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A good little thriller

Author: dbborroughs from Glen Cove, New York
16 April 2004

This is a good little thriller from the beginnings of sound. The only real problems it has are due to the era it was made, one when music wasn't a standard part of talkies, so the pace can seem a bit slow.

The plot concerns a murder during an elaborate game of charades. The bullets fired aren't blanks and as a result no one is playing dead. Of course since the game was taking place during a very fancy party everyone is a suspect. A neat twist is that any of the stereotypical scenes of the detective bringing everyone together are at the beginning of the movie, well before the denouncement.

The dialog is witty and the mystery keeps your interest, which is a big plus. I'm reasonably certain that the mystery is played pretty fairly which is nice since many times in B- movies the murderer comes out of left field.

Despite this not listing as available on video, Alpha Video does have it as a double feature with the very short Moonstone, and the pair makes a nice evenings viewing.

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Interesting Mystery Story Makes Up For An Otherwise Routine Production

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
16 September 2005

The mystery story in "Murder at Midnight" is an interesting one, with some good plot turns, plenty of suspects, and a competition between the police and some amateur sleuths to see who can solve the case first. The story is good enough to make up for the rest of the production, which is routine or somewhat weak in several other respects.

The story starts cleverly, with a murder committed in the course of a party game, and the scenario is well-written, maintaining the tension and interest all the way to the finale. There are clues and suspects in abundance, and most of the details fit together pretty well. As another reviewer has observed, it gives you a fair chance to figure things out yourself. If the rest of the production had been up to the level of the story, this might have been one of the classics of its era.

Some of its weaknesses are simply the common ones of the early 1930s: the irregular pacing and the distracting background, which unfortunately keep the script's rather snappy dialogue from working better. It also could have been improved if more attention had been given to the atmosphere, and with a somewhat stronger cast. The best performance comes from Clara Blandick as a cantankerous aunt, but the rest of the cast is mostly undistinguished, although Aileen Pringle and Alice White are both quite pleasant too look at.

Nevertheless, it's still well worth seeing, at least if you enjoy movies of its era, because the story really is a good one for its genre. With some improvements, it could have been quite good.

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Murder at a house party.

Author: Michael O'Keefe from Muskogee OK
1 October 2004

Frank R. Strayer directs this well acted 1931 who-done-it. What people won't do to have fun at a party. Accidental murder probably is a party pooper every time...but you can't say it isn't interesting. Way back when...a good party starter was a tame little game of charades. One particular night a staged murder in a game of charades turns to the real thing. The bullets weren't blank...leaving a man dead. The mood of the party guests takes on disbelief and a little paranoia. Inspector Taylor(Robert Elliott)puts the gathering of friends and lovers through their paces in search of the murderer's identity. Is it Lawrence, the butler(Brandon Hurst); Colton, the lawyer(William Humphrey); the maid(Alice White)or Aunt Julia(Clara Blandick)? Put disputed inheritance and infidelity in the mix...why wouldn't murder be the result? A long, heavy rainstorm could have made for better atmosphere; but all- in-all the 67 minutes running time is not wasted.

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13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Occasionally clever potboiler

Author: djensen1 from northern Indiana
3 April 2005

Occasionally clever little early 30s multiple-murder mystery, with a killer stalking the Kennedy household and knocking off a half dozen victims. The cops don't seem especially perturbed by the continual corpses lying around and aren't very good at getting to the bottom of the mystery. Lots of telephone cord cutting and such; good example of how the telephone became the mystery writer's best friend.

The plot concerns a letter fingering the killer, which comes to light after a game of charades goes bad (after seeing this and The Death Kiss, I have some advice: do not agree to be shot by a gun filled with blanks during the 1930s). The head of the household, maid, the butler, and who-knows-who-else also fall victim to the clever murderer bent on getting his hands on the letter.

The acting is stagy and old-fashioned, but occasionally sharp and witty, and Alice White as the house maid Millie is a doe-eye peach. An absence of music makes this seem rather duller than it should be. It's okay if you like the genre and era, but it's not something to seek out.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Fascinating lighting techniques

Author: sol- from Perth, Australia
29 June 2006

The opening shots of this film are blurry with undefined shapes and objects, however suddenly a light is switched on and the change in lighting brings about sharper and more detailed images. The lighting techniques in the opening sequence are an indication of things to come in the film. It is an early experiment with lighting and varying the contrast levels from shot to shot. In some shots there are plenty of grey hues and details are easy to make out, while in other shots the faces and clothes of the characters are blown out to white. The blowing out to white is used most effectively when Aileen Pringle is interrogated by investigations - as her facial features can hardly be made out, it is hard for us as viewers to tell whether or not she is lying.

However, other than interesting lighting and camera techniques, the rest of the film is pretty flat. The mystery at the heart of the film is intriguing, but it is never really involving since the film lacks strong character development. Robert Elliott plays his hard-boiled detective as a one-dimensional stereotype too, which makes it hard to want to root for him and his desire to solve the mystery at hand. As an early sound film, the audio quality is not too great, with a bit too much atmospheric sound and perhaps some music could have helped. However, the timing of when a character says "and he fired" followed by a bang, and the timing between dialling for the police and a sudden siren sound, show that some thought was indeed put into what the film was going to sound like it. It is a flawed film, but other than a blatantly contrived ending it makes quite satisfactory viewing, and the lighting work is simply fascinating.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Standard 30's murder-mystery

Author: Red-Barracuda from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
6 December 2009

This is another decent poverty row offering from Frank R. Strayer, the director of The Ghost Walks and Condemned To Live. It's a whodunit concerning the whereabouts of a missing letter that pertains to the will of a recently murdered man. While there really isn't anything overly of interest here, the mystery is compelling enough to keep fans of 1930's mysteries entertained. It follows the conventions of the old dark house mysteries that were so popular at the time, and it doesn't exactly break the mould. It has a typical convoluted plot-line. Like many films of its type, this one is pretty stagey too, with some stiff acting throughout. Although there is some imaginative cinematography and the audio is very clear. The tone of the film is generally light, with not much in the way of thrills. Although it does introduce death by telephone! But if you are a fan of creaky old mysteries I think you could well enjoy this early talkie.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Simplistic but a lot of fun

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
31 October 2006

This is prototypical whodunit. It has atmosphere, interesting characters with personality flying all over the place, hard nut police detectives, most of whom aren't very smart, and that air of snobbery. The film begins with a shooting during a game of charades, where a gun, supposedly holding blanks, proves the undoing of one of the characters, a man who changed his will at the last moment because he sensed danger. A loudmouth detective shows up on the scene and treats everyone like dirt. He shouts in their faces and tries to intimidate. The people at the mansion are upper crust and resent his invasions. Mixed in are a nervous wreck, a cute maid, a stodgy butler, a matriarch, and several other figures who could have participated. There are also some interesting dealings with the telephone (which I won't reveal). The pacing is pretty good and the ending is acceptable. One character who cracked me up was a policeman who spent the whole movie guarding people and eating peanuts in the shell. There's a great scene where the butler brings him a large bowl because he has been tossing the shells on the floor. The cop, puts the peanuts that were in his pocket, into the bowl, then continues to throw the peanut shells on the floor. It's a nice little story and worth watching.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

whatever happened to Alice White???

Author: kidboots from Australia
4 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Murder at Midnight" starts with a game of charades - one of the participants has been murdered and then the killings start.

Aileen Pringle (who was a star of the 20s and had an affair with H.L. Mencken) is the star.

Leslie Fenton (an actor I always liked) played Walter Grayson.

The thing I couldn't get over was adorable Alice White. She played Millie the maid. She had about three lines. She may have been 2nd in the cast - more like 22nd in importance. I have adored Alice White for so long - I was really looking forward to seeing her in this film - any film. In 1930 her star was riding high - what happened?? I know she was involved in some scandals but I thought that was later in her career. She is much better served in "Employees' Entrance" - where she really shines and her charms are put to good use.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Pretty good 'Old B'

Author: GManfred from Ramsey, NJ
13 June 2009

Do you like 'whodunnits'? The other kind is a 'cat-and-mouse' picture, wherein the killer is known from the outset. I don't like those but am a sucker for a 'whodunnit', especially a well made one. "Murder at Midnight" is a whodunnit although a primitive one, but it holds your interest throughout - but just barely at times due to the ice-cutter pacing. Was thrown off somewhat by the lack of a music track, something we have become used to as the sound era wore on.

Hadn't seen Alice White before but will look for her from now on - cute as the proverbial button. Thought Aileen Pringle was a dead ringer for Ruth Chatterton, and that the film was helped a great deal by several distinguished actors in tuxedos. Makes you think what a shame it is that men rarely wear tuxes anymore except at weddings.

I'm trying to get through my gift box of old mysteries on DVD and I am always appreciative when I come to one worth the time to view it, as opposed to scads of 'quota quickies' and poorly made B's. I gave "Murder at Midnight a rating of 7, because it is a cut above.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Something's Afoot

Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
20 July 2009

"A sophisticated party held in an old mansion goes horribly wrong when a gun used during a parlor game contains real bullets instead of blanks. When the shooter ends up dead, the police and guests realize that the first death was no accident and that they have a killer in their midst," according to the DVD sleeve's synopsis. The opening scene is good, with butler Brandon Hurst (as Lawrence) moving up the hands on a grandfather clock, cuing Aileen Pringle (as Esme Kennedy) and Robert Ellis (as Duncan Channing) to act out their "Murder at Midnight" charade. From then on, it works if you can imagine Groucho Marx is playing "Inspector Taylor". Robert Elliott, who does plays the part, even has some of Mr. Marx' vocal tones.

**** Murder at Midnight (8/1/31) Frank Strayer ~ Robert Elliott, Aileen Pringle, Leslie Fenton

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