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A. Edward Sutherland
Richard 'Skeets' Gallagher
Inspector Marotte, attending an auction of rare collectible books previously ownded by the recently murdered M. Le Duc de Poisse, hopes he can catch his old nemesis Prahec, a murderer and book thief. More murders occur at the deceased's estate when it is learned that a rare first edition of the Gutenberg Bible is hidden on the premises. Among all the friends, relatives, and servants gathering at the estate, Marotte is finally able to reveal the identity of Prahec and apprehend the guilty. Written by
Doug Sederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A sturdy whodunit premise (various characters assembled at a French chateau, vying for an original Gutenberg Bible), potentially interesting plot details and colorful character names suggest that this is perhaps an adaptation of a good golden-age whodunit novel (perhaps one of A.E.W. Mason's Inspector Hanaud tales). However, it was actually a hastily written original for the screen, and after many reels of long, tedious exposition, the plot is resolved quickly, arbitrarily and quite unsatisfactorily. None of the promising plot elements turn out to have any real pay-off (though a good puzzle-plot writer could probably watch the first two-thirds of the film and devise an interesting resolution from what came before).
Though Richard Thorpe never became much of a director (even in his "glory" days at MGM), he certainly improved later upon this feeble early effort. Of course, the vastly superior production values at Metro certainly didn't hurt. "Chateau" was obviously shot shot quickly on standing sets at Universal.
On the plus side (not much here), the always-welcome Claire Dodd is at her loveliest here, Ferdinand Gottschalk is properly egocentric as the detective (though the script gives him no examples of deductive brilliance to justify that ego), and Osgood Perkins (Tony's father) has one beautifully dry explanation for his wife's objection to him keeping floozy Alice White company for the evening: "She's funny that way."
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