Due to the truncated nature of the current 64 minute print, four actors receiving billing on screen do not appear: Archie Robbins, Bess Stafford, Lucille Ward and Belle Mitchell. This print has aired on the Mystery Channel. See more »
"The Leavenworth Case"(1936)was a remake of a 1923 silent version of an 1878 novel by Anna Katherine Green.This film would have been an above average mystery,were it not for interference from the British censors,who were just a few months away from banning horror films outright,leaving Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff scrambling for jobs in its wake.This film's murder victim is Silas Leavenworth(Frank Sheridan),who'd made his fortune in the stock market,and now wants to make amends for his dishonest dealings by giving away his fortune.Needless to say,his family do not approve of his change of heart,and the night before he is due to change his will,he dies under mysterious circumstances.Apart from the entire family,his business partner,Henry Clavering(Gavin Gordon)is also suspected,due to his practice of embezzlement.What is made clear from the start is that Leavenworth's physician,Dr.Truman Harwell(Donald Cook),is in love with the old man's younger wife(Erin O'Brien Moore),and has a 2 million dollar monkey named Jocko(who receives 7th billing),trained to handle eggs and other strange things whenever he hears the doctor's whistle.This was what the British censors did not approve of,a doctor turning out to be the killer,so another culprit was hastily written in to be the guilty party,but we still see the monkey sneak the doctor's forged note into someone's room,and turn on the lamp gas for a convenient suicide/confession that fails to come off when the intended victim awakens and the monkey gets caught(and displays a deep attachment for the villainous doctor).The amazing new ending winds up making no sense,and the surviving 64 minute print that has aired on the Mystery Channel features four actors listed on screen who have been cut out(a lab man, a woman with a cat,and two women with dogs).The most notable bit of casting is Norman Foster as the lead detective,because he would soon give up acting to become the main director on Peter Lorre's MR.MOTO series(6 of the 8),also helming 3 of Sidney Toler's best CHARLIE CHAN entries,one of which featured his wife Sally Blane(TREASURE ISLAND).The original TV print dating from the 1950's was chopped down to 53 minutes,so what would have come off as a somewhat routine whodunit enlivened by a remarkable monkey,ends up as a sadly snakebitten production.James Whale's 1937 release "The Road Back" suffered similar postproduction tampering,and Karloff's "Devil's Island," completed in the summer of 1938,had to wait two years before any wide release due to objections from France.The Second World War meant the loss of the lucrative foreign market for Hollywood,but at least horror made its sterling comeback in 1939 with "Son of Frankenstein," firmly reestablishing the careers of both Lugosi and Karloff,a happy occurrence for all involved.
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