The Universal set from James Whale's "The Old Dark House" (1932) was utilized for this low budget feature from Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation (which lasted from 1925 to 1936), one of many independent outfits of that era that shot their films on rented sets at the major studios. Among the other indie companies was Majestic Pictures, who used the same Universal set for their 1933 feature "The Vampire Bat," starring Lionel Atwill and Melvyn Douglas, while Universal itself toplined Atwill in another film shot on the same set, "Secret of the Blue Room," later that same year. "Strange People" therefore has a more polished look than a typical Chesterfield cheapie, but with a cast of mostly no names, apart from a young Walter Brennan, who appeared at Universal that year in "The Invisible Man," as a man whose bicycle was stolen. Hale Hamilton stars as a lawyer who arranges the gathering of all 12 members of a jury who convicted an innocent man to the gallows. He tries to demonstrate how a person can be convicted on circumstantial evidence and uses his partner, posing as the butler, to help him. The butler is apparently shot and killed by a young woman who claims to be his frightened ex-wife, but it's all just a put-on, until the man is discovered to actually be dead. Among the rest of the cast is the aforementioned Walter Brennan, as one of the 12 jurors, summoned to repair a radio; Jack Pennick, a member of John Ford's stock company, as a plumber; Jerry Mandy supplies decent comic relief as a barber; Lew Kelly as an insurance agent, whom I remember in Lugosi's "Bowery at Midnight" (1942), playing the doctor who restores life to the dead; Michael Visaroff, the innkeeper from Lugosi's "Dracula" (1931), playing the suspicious caretaker skulking about. There are numerous twists and turns that make this one of the more intriguing forgotten thrillers from the 1930's, one that deserves a second look. In the James Whale feature, these wonderful sets were shadowed in darkness, but the other films show them off to great advantage. Director Richard Thorpe would make one notable contribution to Universal's Laemmle era, 1934's "Secret of the Château," which despite its lurid publicity, is a rather drab murder mystery toplining Claire Dodd.
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