Bank clerk William Marble is desperate for money to pay his family's bills. When his wealthy nephew visits, Marble asks him for a loan, but the young man refuses. Marble decides to kill his...
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Bank clerk William Marble is desperate for money to pay his family's bills. When his wealthy nephew visits, Marble asks him for a loan, but the young man refuses. Marble decides to kill his nephew. It is a twisted path to justice after Marble is transformed by the crime he committed and the wealth he gains. Written by
This crime-doesn't-pay melodrama features a pyrotechnical performance by Charles Laughton as an impoverished bank clerk who poisons and robs his wealthy nephew, using the spoils to speculate with great success on the currency exchange, sending him into a high income bracket virtually overnight.
The exposition is glaringly obvious and contrived, especially the key sequence of the murder itself which is right out of a 1909 two-reeler. Yet it's all gripping because you can't help wondering how it will all work out.
Surrounding the main course of Laughton's steaming spiced ham are plausible performances from Dorothy Peterson as his timid, long-suffering wife, Maureen O'Sullivan as his innocent, earnest daughter, Ray Milland as the ill-fated nephew who shows up out of nowhere just when the plot needs him, and last but not least Miss Veree Teasdale in her element as a cold, greedy, calculating shop owner who develops a sudden interest in Laughton when she learns of his newly acquired wealth.
One can only surmise that the source play developed the situations more convincingly because the essential arc makes sense: a desperate man commits a crime and gets away with it for a while, only to pay for it later in an unexpected way. Between these two high marks we see the corrosive effect of sudden monetary gain on the mores of a lower class family unit.
Finally, Laughton gets to indulge in a spell of insane cackling as he did in another 1932 release, "Devil and the Deep."
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