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This somewhat less than rewarding production is based closely upon a novel by Harriette Ashbrook: "The Murder Of Steven Kester", to a point of its inclusion of substantial swatches of Ashbrook's stilted dialogue, but since the original book remains safely confined within a rather narrow spectrum of sleuthing utilized by the English writer, it can be no surprise that the film is also dull and generally predictable. Action opens briskly with assistant director Melville Shyer, who also contributes the script, effectively leading a congregation of extras during a lively costume party sequence, this festivity organized at the home of wealthy Steven Kester by his granddaughter Jean (Shirley Grey) as a diversion to facilitate her unobstructed elopement with beau Cliff Miller (William Bakewell). Here the pace of the film begins to flag as journeyman director Richard Thorpe mishandles the tempo following discovery of Steven Kester's corpse, decorated with stab wounds, and a homicide investigation then begins under the supervision of Captain (or Chief, at times Inspector) Crofton (John Wray) who fails to acknowledge any recognizable form of correct investigative police procedures as he browbeats a large contingent of available suspects. Needless to report, many of these latter have apparent motives to have committed the slaying, and if Crofton neglects one of them, a meddlesome crime novelist, Michael Tracy (Charles Starrett), a recurring lead character as "Spike Tracy" in the publications of Ashbrook, is on hand to abet the detective. Viewers, however, will not require similar assistance, due to the story hardly being abstruse enough to challenge most armchair detectives. Production values for this low tier Chesterfield Pictures item are expectedly paltry, but some performances from players are to be valued, in particular a brief turn by Lloyd Whitlock, and neatly developed characterizations from Grey and Dorothy Revier as female suspects. Director Thorpe, ever respectful of his cast members, and especially of those whom are stage trained, leads with a loose rein.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dorothy Revier, a former Wampas Baby Star of 1925, specialized in
vamps, and in many of her films she was the only reason to watch them.
Not this film though, which boasts a strong cast (Charles Starrett,
Shirley Grey) and an ending with a twist. With most of the filming done
on a palatial mansion set from Universal, the production values were
The guests at a midnight masquerade are shocked to find their host Stephen Kester (Claude Dillingwater) has been stabbed to death. Meanwhile Kester's grand daughter Jean (Shirley Grey) has eloped with Cliff (William Bakewell) who informs her that not only has he tampered with the guest's car ignitions so they can't be followed, he has cut the phone wires as well. The police stop them and as suspects, they are taken back to the house.
Mystery writer Bill Tracy (Charles Starrett, surprisingly providing comic relief) is eager to help but only succeeds in upsetting the police. Everyone has an alibi of sorts but Lenox, the butler, reveals that Kester was greatly disliked, and that he overheard Kester and Hall (Arthur Clayton) having a business argument. When Cliff, who seems to be the most suspicious character in the film, is questioned he denies he and Jean are anything but good friends and Mrs. Pritchard's (Dorothy Revier) evidence is damning - making Jean a prime suspect. It then comes out that Kester had disinherited Jean but had not signed a new will. Jean's personality does not help matters - she comes across as a spoiled brat, annoyed because her grandfather has cut off her allowance.
Things seem to be getting somewhere when Hall, who is chief suspect (Kester robbed him of valuable mining stock in 1914) is found shot - an apparent suicide. There is even a note explaining things. In it Hall tells of his friendship with Jean's mother and how, because of Kester's greed, she was forced to work long hours to support herself and her baby - work that eventually killed her. Hall decides to get revenge.....
That's not the end and the twist is what separated "Green Eyes" from all the other mystery films that flooded theatres in 1934.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
During a masked party Stephen Kester is found dead in the closet of his
room, three stab wounds in his back. Suspicion falls on everyone at the
party, especially Kester's granddaughter and her fiancée who fled the
house after disabling all of the other cars and cutting the phone
lines. As the police investigate they are shadowed and helped along by
a mystery writer.
Good Long Island based murder mystery novel keeps you guessing until almost the end of the film. Its not until a few knots about motive are untangled that you'll know who did it and why. Its a neatly plotted mystery that I think works better for lifting some of the dialog from the novel since it seems to move the film along at a good clip, even if most of the actions are simply in wide circles around the mansion. The cast is full of B-movie stalwarts who all fill their roles with a good amount doubt as to their possible guilt or innocence. Even nominal lead Charles Starrett as Michael Tracy, the mystery writer, manages to keep you guessing as to whether he did it or not.
A solid and very enjoyable mystery. It maybe light and fluffy but it will entertain you.
I'm not that familiar with the mystery genre or era (1930s) at all, but
I quite liked this murder mystery. Some old guy gets bumped off during
a fancy dress party and stuffed in a cupboard, and it's up to the
police and a smug murder mystery writer to figure out who the culprit
was. Was it the spoiled granddaughter and her boyfriend? Or the
secretary and his wife? Or the housekeeper? Or the old business
partner? The police try and find out the only way they know by
cornering people in the house and barking rapid fire questions at them
for the entire first half of the film. This sounds boring but it kind
of got me all fired up too, so much so that I started firing rapid
questions at my wife. Where's my dinner? Why don't you shut those kids
up? Why are coming towards me with that knife?
It's all pretty brisk stuff as the writer guy snoops around and generally acts like a total pain as he tries to rumble the perp. As this film was made in the 1800s it's not full of blood and gore and sex as we've all come to expect, what with being brought up on Fulci films, but for a glimpse into a by-gone age (30BC) I thought Green Eyes was charming and I'll tip my hat to it.
Are there stand out films of this type? I'd like to know. The Pre-Cambrian explosion mystery film intrigues me.
During the 1930s, Hollywood made a ton of murder mysteries. While they
continued to make some in the 40s, the 30s was by far the most prolific
period--and most of them were B-movies. These Bs had relatively unknown
actors, simple plots and usually ended in about an hour...more or less.
And, because I love old films, I've seen so many that they're all
starting to look the same.
Take, for instance, "Green Eyes". It has all the elements you'll find in such a murder film. There is always a know-it-all guy who isn't with the local police--in this case a guy who writes murder mysteries who just happens to be there. There are misdirections galore--with too many folks lying and a supposed suicide to cover up the real murder. The plot is also, at times, too complicated and full of unnecessary details (such as the whole green eyes angle). Not surprisingly, the well-trained professional cops are complete morons. Heck, by watching these films you'd think cops NEVER solved crimes more taxing than jaywalking! And, the film is made entirely of unknown actors. No, none of the film is all that original or all that good, though I did like that they made the writer a bit of a smart-mouth. Worth seeing if you're not yet sick of the genre, but there certainly are similar yet better films out there--such as any of the Charlie Chan films or "Footsteps in the Dark".
"A stately country mansion is the sight of a costume party thrown by
its wealthy owner. The masquerade party comes to an abrupt end when the
host is found dead in a closet, his body full of stab wounds. Now the
authorities and a crime novelist, who is a guest at the party, must
sort through the guest list and uncover the identity of the murderer,"
according to the DVD sleeve's synopsis.
This dull whodunit stars handsome Charles Starrett (as Michael Tracy), despite the billing. Later, he became known as the western hero "The Durango Kid", one of the biggest "Box Office Western Stars" of the forties. As in other films, filmmakers got the ex-football star to partially undress, something usually reserved for women. Herein, you can catch Mr. Starrett in his pajama bottoms.
**** Green Eyes (6/15/34) Richard Thorpe ~ Charles Starrett, John Wray, Shirley Grey
Cops investigate a costume party murder in a rich man's mansion.
Thoroughly routine whodunit, despite the promising opening scenes. Not surprisingly, it's one of the type popular in the 30's, when amateur sleuths out-sleuthed the professionals. Here it's Charles Starrett as a novelist figuring out the clues before the cops do. But at least the screenplay doesn't turn the head cop into some kind of buffoon as often happened in these 30's programmers.
Now I'm used to seeing Starrett with a six-gun and Stetson giving the bad guys a hard-eyed stare. So, seeing him here as a loosey-goosey lounge lizard in alpine shorts took some getting used to. But he does liven up the acting, which otherwise tends toward the dull side. Still, that last scene in the lethal bedroom stands as a real grabber of staging. Too bad the rest of the movie doesn't show a similar level of imagination.
(In passingAm I mistaken or does Starrett look like an early version of Rock Hudson.)
Charles Starrett is a writer of murder mysteries who gets involved
inyes, a murder mystery. Nothing too original in Green Eyes, but a
fair assortment of suspects and intriguing clues help maintain
interest. Once again, it's a murder in a big old house in which nearly
all of the film's action occurs. The event which sets the story in
motion is the murder of the house's owner, one Steven Kester, during a
costume party, and it's quickly established that his guests, his
employees and even his granddaughter are not particularly sad to see
him go. Even his butler can't find anything nice to say about him:
Inspector Crofton: "What kind of a man was Mr. Kester to work for?" Lenox the butler: "He was a Simon Legree, sir. It's been most difficult to put up with him these past 20 years."
For the first half of the film, John Wray as the inspector barks out a good half of all the dialog spoken as he rounds up clues and lays out the facts and motives. In the second half, we see more of Starrett as he quietly investigates while more noisily presenting a rather foppish front to most of the group.
Shirley Grey and Dorothy Revier, as the two women involved in the case, are given just enough screen time to hint that their characters could contain some interesting depths; but alas, a 70-minute movie holds limited space for developing character studies.
Nice touches: the goofy getups sported by the guests in the opening costume party and ensuing interrogation; the "green eyes" of the title; and a clever closing bit with Starrett at his typewriter.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The body of millionaire Steven Kester is discovered murdered in the closet by the guests at a lavish costume party being held at Kester's stately country mansion. It's up to shrewd and sarcastic crime novelist Michael Tracy (a spirited and likable performance by Charles Starrett) to figure out the identity of the killer. Director Richard Thorpe, working from a witty and compact script by Andrew Moses, relates the absorbing story at a brisk pace, maintains a firm sense of taut narrative economy throughout, and further spices things up with a pleasing sense of sassy humor (Tracy's barbed exchanges with the police are especially sharp and amusing). Moreover, the able cast play their parts with real zest: Starrett's lively acting keeps the picture humming, the fetching Shirley Grey brings tremendous appeal to her role as Kester's feisty grand daughter Jean, John Wary is suitably gruff as the hard-nosed Inspector Crofton, and Dorothy Revier does well as the touchy Mrs. Pritchard. M.A. Anderson's crisp black and white cinematography makes neat use of fades, wipes, and dissolves. A hugely enjoyable item.
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