A private detective is enlisted to find out who shot a dog and threatened its owner, but before long he's also involved in a kidnapping and murder plot.



(screenplay) (as Erwin Gelsey), (novel)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Margaret Callahan ...
Amy Hutchins
Paul Harding
Jim Glenray, Paul's Brother in Law
'Red' Cable (as Big Boy Williams)
Nancy Harding
Gene Leland
Robert Middlemass ...
Inspector Brock
Tony Spivali, Gambler
Maxine Jennings ...
Luigi Turseniani, Head of the Mob


Famous private detective Tip O'Neil is summoned by telegram to the estate of old friend Paul Harding, but finds the telegram was sent by Paul's attractive secretary, Amy Hutchins. Paul admits his dog was shot by extortionists to show they mean business, and shows Tip some threatening notes they sent. That night, Paul's ward, Corinne, is kidnapped by two gangsters and her driver is found dead the next morning. The kidnappers contact Tip demanding $200,000, which is delivered according to instructions. Awaiting the return of Corrine, Tip learns her fiancé, Gene Leland, is an ex-convict, and he also investigates why a thug, Maratti, was found prowling around the grounds, and why Paul's brother-in-law, Jim Glenray, was seen leaving the estate late the night before. And when the chauffeur is murdered with Amy's gun as he was about to confess some complicity, Tip has to piece together various clues to pinpoint the culprits. Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

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Release Date:

14 February 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La villa del mistero  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

A Different Type of Detective For the Day
4 June 2012 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

Mess 'em Up (1936)

*** (out of 4)

Private detective 'Tip' O'Neil (Preston Foster) is asked by his employer (Alan Mowbray) to investigate who shot his dog but this then leads to a human murder, kidnapping and blackmail case. O'Neil has a long list of suspects who might be behind the money scheme and he tries to crack the case with some violence and a not-so-bright assistant (Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams). If you're a fan of Turner Classic Movies like I am then you know they quite often show forgotten detective and crime films from the 30s and 40s. Everyone knows the more popular titles but once I got hooked on the station I was amazed to see how many good ones were out there but simply forgotten. This one here doesn't contain a brilliant story and it's not too hard to figure out who's behind everything but it's still rather unique because of the main character. I think it would be fair to call O'Neil a tad bit crazy simply by the way he acts. I can't ruin what happens at the end but just look at the way O'Neil carries on and you'll see what I mean about him being crazy. The other thing that makes the character so memorable is the way he loves to use violence to get the information he needs. Yes, he pays a couple people off but his big thing is beating confessions out of people and this includes a very funny story of how to use a hose without leaving a bruise. This unlawful act wasn't in any of these mysteries that I can remember so it's rather refreshing seeing a character willing to use it. Foster turns in a very good performance as he handles every side of the character without any problems. He was a lot of fun and it seemed as if he was having a blast playing it. Margaret Callahan, Mowbray, Ralph Morgan and Max Rosenbloom are good as well. Tough guy Williams is also a lot of fun in his role, another one who loves to beat and cheat people. It goes without saying but the title itself is something that would draw you to the picture and thankfully the film matches it in terms of entertainment.

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