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Murder at Glen Athol is a neat little mystery with a bit of comedy, a bit of romance, a bit of gangster picture thrown innot much of any of those other elements, just enough to keep the viewer slightly off-balance. John Miljan is vacationing detective Bill Holt, a man who keeps his own balance, deftly managing a variety of suspects, the usual dumb cops, and a quickly-developing love affair with Jane Maxwell (played by Irene Ware), who is given brief consideration as a suspect but obviously works better as a love interest.
John Miljan is more familiar as the scheming crook he played in so many movies, but here at the center of this story he gets a chance to show some strong qualities as a lead, and some versatility in the range of his relationships with the other characters. His banter with James Burtis, the requisite housekeeper/assistant/right-hand man, is light but amusing enough. (Miljan's attempt to take a vacation and write his memoirs is interrupted in the film's opening scene by Burtis's insistent vacuuming around the desk Miljan is typing at.) His interactions with the various suspects are cool and cautious, as he isn't (and we aren't) sure just who might take a shot at him, stick a knife in him, or whack him on the side of the head. (Those things do seem to happen in this particular house he's visiting.) He shows deference to the police investigators, but doesn't throw away any valuable clues by turning them over, either.
Miljan's romance with Irene Ware is perhaps the oddest of these relationships. I'm not overly picky, and I know things have to move fast in a 64-minute movie, but this detective drops some lines that are awfully sappy for as serious-minded a character as he otherwise seems. Entering the gambling room at the house party, she declines to play, but he thinks he'll take a whirl at the roulette table anyway: "No matter what happens, it'll still be the luckiest night of my life." "Why do you say that?" she wonders. "Oh," he replies, "I just happened to meet a girl named Jane Maxwell." --Even Jane Maxwell finds this a bit much, and laughingly answers, "Well, come on, Mr. Detective, we'll see how lucky you are."
The mystery elements are done well; the picture moves along at a splendid clip. Well worth a viewing.
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