1937's "The Man Who Cried Wolf" was among the handful of non genre titles in Universal's popular SHOCK! package of classic horror films issued to television in the late 50s, and easily one of the most frequently viewed. I myself caught up with it on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater on December 31 1977, ringing in the new year with Chilly Billy and the Chiller family, the third feature in the show's very last triple bill (following 1967's "Cauldron of Blood" and 1946's "The Spider Woman Strikes Back"). An ingeniously simple storyline that surprisingly was never remade, starring Lewis Stone as publicity seeking ham actor Lawrence Fontaine, who annoys the local police with a series of phony confessions, setting up a murder of his own he's been planning for 20 years to avenge the death of his ex-wife. Unfortunately, the victim's stepson (Tom Brown), beloved fellow actor in Fontaine's play "The Death Cry," becomes the top suspect arrested for the crime, leading to a frantic search for the incriminating murder gun, which was hidden by Fontaine's protective valet (Forrester Harvey), recently killed in an auto accident. In trying to convince authorities that he's not the nutcase they believe him to be, Fontaine spends the rest of the picture marking time, the lack of incident responsible for the sluggish pace when the film's momentum should be building. Even after he recovers the incriminating gun, he refuses to divulge the motive behind his crime, having burned the letters that showed why he did it. Marjorie Main is cast against type as the victim's sister, and among the unbilled are such familiar faces as John Hamilton, Russell Hicks, Eddie Kane, Selmer Jackson, Edwin Stanley, Stanley Andrews, Pierre Watkin, and Ernie Adams. Universal was still in horror limbo then, the genre's revival still over a year away with "Son of Frankenstein," the studio losing money with a nonstop parade of 'B' programmers that have been largely forgotten over time.
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