Eight strangers are invited by a mysterious unknown host to spend the night in a penthouse apartment. The eight (5 men, 3 women) are wined, dined, then greeted by their host's voice via a ... See full summary »
Roy William Neill
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
... in this thriller that combines the atmosphere of the Universal horror films of the 1930's with the feel of the sophisticated precodes of Paramount. This is a rare chance to see Lilyan Tashman in a leading role, and she is spot on as a woman who wants wealth and comfort by any means possible and sees her ability to manipulate men to do her bidding as key to her plan.
Our story opens as does the film Frankenstein from this same year - 1931 - in a foggy graveyard with a group of mourners gathered around a grave. Into the scene strolls old Mrs. Endicott with her maid and son to visit the family crypt. However, honoring the dead is not her purpose, instead she is there to insure that her own crypt is in working order. Mrs. Endicott has a fear of being buried alive and has a creepy sounding horn installed in her own vault so that if she is erroneously interred she can sound the alarm and be rescued. Thus she likes to try it out from time to time to see if it still works.
The Endicotts are apparently a family whose tree has deep and wealthy roots but withering leaves. There are only two possible heirs to the Endicott fortune in that tree - Mrs. Endicott's brutish idiot son Philip and her alcoholic weakling of a nephew, Herbert. Philip has made it clear that his highest goal in life is to kill people with his bare hands, so Mrs. Endicott leaves her fortune to her nephew. Philip has enough IQ points to know he's been supplanted and is upset about the situation, and Herbert is happy because now he hopes his wife Laura (Lilyan Tashman) will stop nagging him about money now that she can know her future is secure.
The night that the new will is drawn up and signed Mrs. Endicott is strangled to death. Soon after the funeral, Herbert and Laura take up residence in the Endicott ancestral home, Herbert is strangled as well. Shortly after that the alarm from Mrs. Endicott's tomb rings out. What's going on here? Watch and find out. There are secret passages, shadowy figures in the fog, and best of all Ms. Tashman, making Jezebel look like Betty Crocker. William Stage Boyd plays police lieutenant Valcour who is trying to get to the bottom of all of this. Will he succumb to Lilyan's poisonous poise, or will he solve the crime? Remember that this is the precode era and unjust outcomes were allowed and did occur in American film during this time.
I highly recommend this one for anybody who likes the old dark house films of the 30's.
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