This 1936 film from director Robert Florey is a return for him to the field of dark films, a path he almost started on early in his career. Florey did Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1932 as a consolation for being dropped from Frankenstein. In 1935 he directed The Florentine Dagger, another thriller. The Preview Murder Mystery was his most taut suspense film up to that date.
It is almost an ensemble piece with Reginald Denny and Frances Drake as the romantic leads, but there isn't much time for romance in this 60 minute murder mystery. What stands out most here is the editing. There are simply a TON of shots in this film. I don't think there is a single shot that lasts more than 10 seconds. Florey gives us every angle and many points of view for each scene and there are many short scenes so that if you get up to go to the bathroom, you'll miss a good chunk of the details. It's a pretty simple plot, but with many twists. An actor is threatened to be murdered before the preview of the movie he is shooting. After the screening he is found dead and the actress and director are next on the murderer's wish list.
Ian Keith puts in a nice turn as the suspicious director. Rod LaRoque is good early as the doomed lead actor. Gail Patrick basically gets to look beautiful and Denny and Drake make a decent team, but they just don't have too much to do. This is really a director's piece and Florey makes the most of all of his opportunities. He even gets to do a mock horror film scene late in the movie that looks good, and there is a comedy scene of another film being shot on a different stage with Chester Conklin in a cameo. Curios they are, but these are gratuitous, and unfortunately almost kill the pace of this movie just as we are about to reach the conclusion. All in all though, a nice way to spend an hour for classic mystery buffs.
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