|Index||10 reviews in total|
The description of the plot given by TCM on its cable showing of this
little MGM movie from 1937 made me want to watch it--something about a
woman holding a seance to prove that her daughter is not the murderer
and with a setting in Colonial India. Then I saw the cast names: DAME
MAY Witty, LEWIS STONE, MADGE EVANS, RALPH FORBES, ROBERT COOTE...and
immediately I decided to watch it.
Not disappointed. It's a tidy little mystery, nothing original or approaching the wit and wisdom of Agatha Christite's tales, but interesting nevertheless. Dame May Witty is the protective mother who helps inspector LEWIS STONE solve the case--and, happily for me, it turned out to be someone I suspected all along.
A crisp one hour and six minute programmer from MGM given all the polish one would expect from a major studio. The elaborate sets add the necessary atmosphere, except for the seance itself which is held in total darkness and is just a black blur on the screen during which a voice is heard. This is the only flaw in an otherwise smoothly made B-picture.
Silver-haired gentleman CHARLES TROWBRIDGE is seen in many movies from the '30s and '40s and does a smooth job as Dr. Mason.
Well worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just got to see this rare film, which was a remake of the 1929 film
directed by Tod Browning. This one has all the nice polish of an MGM
film, which is an asset. What is peculiar is why the film was made at
all. It is a simple b-movie, and a remake of a pretty forgotten story.
The previous version was a stilted early talkie, highlighted by the
appearance of Bela Lugosi as the detective (pre-Dracula). Also,
strangely, Holmes Herbert repeats his supporting role from the earlier
film, which is a largely insignificant part.
The music score is very good, underlying and adding to the mystery mood. It is not quite as atmospheric as the earlier film, but it is still sufficient. Henry Daniell is quite good as the obsessed friend of the dead man, who ends up dead himself. The séances are handled pretty weakly. It's just a stagnant shot of the room in the dark. I actually closed my eyes to rest them while the scenes went on, and just listened. Lewis Stone is solid as the detective, coming off as a bit more pushy than usual for him. Overall, it is interesting to see an MGM film like this. They didn't really delve into horror or mystery and considering this was made in the horror ban years of 1937-8, it really stands out in their catalog. It's worth the time of any 30s mystery buffs and if you've seen a lot of poverty row ones, this is a good contrast for its' production values. 6/10
Hard to believe that "The Thirteenth Chair" was made in 1937, as for
some reason it feels like it was made much earlier. The film stars Dame
May Witty, Lewis Stone, Ralph Forbes, Madge Evans, Elissa Landi, and
The police, led by Lewis Stone, are investigating the murder of one Lionel Leigh; his best friend (Henry Daniell) suggests a séance, which will be led by Rosalie LaGrange (Dame May Witty). Unfortunately a death occurs.
This is a short programmer; not only is it a decent mystery, but it was fun to see some séance "tricks" revealed as well.
Good cast of old-timers.
The Thirteenth Chair (1937)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Remake of the 1929 Tod Browning film (which itself was a remake of a 1920 film) about a medium (Dame May Witty) who is brought into try and solve the murder of a man but during the séance another man ends up murdered. Now the detective (Lewis Stone) must try and figure out which person done it. This version of THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR is actually better than the previous one thanks in large part to some nice performances, good direction by George B. Seitz and a good story. If you've seen the 1929 version then you're going to notice that there haven't been too many changes here story-wise but what really makes this one work better is that Seitz does a much better job in the director's chair. Whereas that 1929 version was incredibly flat, this one here actually moves at a very nice pace and there are some effective moments throughout. The séance scenes are also extremely well-done and especially the one where the medium works alone. The opening title card gives Witty a huge credit and she is quite good here. She'll always be best remembered for her role in Hitchcock's THE LADY VANISHES but she's very believable here. The supporting cast is equally good with Stone turning in a fun performance as the detective and we've also got Henry Daniell playing one of the members of the party. Madge Evans, Elissa Landi and Thomas Beck are also good. The story itself has a few questionable moments but it's still effective enough for this type of "B" movie. Fans of this type of murder-mystery should really enjoy this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a very good example of a film that MGM could have made an A
list picture. Instead, it's a B film, but a pretty good one. A slightly
better script would have helped, and probably would have made the
It's quite interesting -- using séances to solve murders. While that's nothing new, this was actually one of the early leaders in that genre (although this is a remake of a 1929 film). There are enough interesting characters here to hold your attention. As I was watching the film, I thought -- aha! A film that sticks pretty close to what was obviously a Broadway play. And indeed, it had been performed on the stage for about a year.
The cast here is actually quite good, albeit B listers...but cream of the crop B listers. The seer is played well by Dame May Witty in what was her third "talkie". The detective is played so well by Andy Hardy's dad -- Lewis Stone. I always enjoyed Janet Beecher as a fine character actress, and she's here, as are a number of faces you'll recognize, but whose names you probably don't know.
It's a decent whodunit, although a little too talkative in places. But stick with it...it's worth it and it has a few twists.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
****SPOILERS*** Third version of the British murder mystery "The
Thirteenth Chair" has British Inspector Marney, Lewis Stone, try to
solve the murder of Lenny Spencer Lee who was found dead with a knife
wound in his back at his Calcutta home a few days earlier. It's Lee's
good friend John Wales played by Henry Daniell, who was to play future
Sherlock Holmes' master criminal Doctor Moriatry, who suspects he knows
who murdered him but needs the help of medium Madam Rosalie La Graange,
Dame May Witty, to smoke him or her out. Using a séance with a number
of persons, 13 to be exact, who are suspected in Lee's murder Madam
Rosalie expects to reveal his identity but something goes seriously
wrong. Duing the scene when in total darkness the killers identity is
about to be revealed by Wales he himself if found murdered with a knife
wound in his back with the murder weapon mysteriously disappearing from
It's Madam Roselie who's been secretly working with Inspector Marney who smells a rat in all this in how the séance was manipulated and suspects the killer used it as cover to murder Wales to keep his identity hidden. Given a second chance by Inspector Marney to have a another séance with the dead body of John Wales, who's by now was in the last stages of Rigor Mortis, participating. It's there that the truth finally comes who in fact murdered Lenny Lee by his killer being tricked into admitting his crime even though he skillfully covered all he evidence that would have convicted him.
***SPOILES***Overly talky British murder mystery that has trouble making its point in who killed Mister Lee but the fine acting especially that of Dame May Witty more then makes up for it. The disappearing knife act by Lee's as well as Wales killer was a bit too convoluted to take seriously but it did make for a very good surprise ending. With Lee & wales' killer totally falling for it even though it, with the fingerprints on it wiped clean, never would have stood up in a court of law.
P.S In the early 1929 talkie version of the movie a pre Darcula and non English speaking Bela Lugosi,who probably had his voice dubbed, made his US movie debut as Inspector Dalzante;The role later created for Lewis Stone as Inspector Marney in the 1937 version of the film.
Madame La Grange, psychic medium, admits that "Most of the time it's a
fake" when she gives a reading. Tonight, however, she insists that she
will play no tricks: she's at the English governor's residence in
Calcutta, summoned to assist in investigating the murder of a most
Dame May Witty plays the medium with appropriate gravity and mystery. Madge Evans wears a worried look as the beautiful secretary who is in love with the governor's son. She also, we soon learn, is the mysterious medium's daughter.
Henry Daniell is moody and edgy as a friend of the murder victim. He wants answers from the police, who are represented by Lewis Stone, a Scotland Yard man who's been shipped in specially to look into the case.
A couple of spooky séance scenes succeed in sending some shivers down the spine. Particularly effective is a bit when the lights are off and the screen is totally black for a long moment: we hear voices, then Daniell asking "Who killed you?"and then just perfect silence and darkness for what seems an exceptionally long stretch. (When they do finally turn on the lights, there's another dead body.)
It's a solid if not brilliant plot; it builds nicely to an exciting climax and a surprising solution.
Witty has the most colorful role and is clearly the featured performer here; she is quite good. Lewis Stone's role, I have to say, I found annoying he is one sententious police detective but not exactly the smartest. (Judge Hardy would never have come so close to totally blowing a case.)
This one won't cause any nightmares but it is atmospheric, fast-moving, and plenty entertaining.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I love mysteries from the thirties. It isn't because they are good
movies, they aren't usually. It is because you can see history being
Whatever we have now in terms of a cinematic narrative, the on screen avatar detective conventions were highly unsettled before "Kane." Here we have one of the more extraordinary experiments. In the thirties, spiritualism was still vital. Ghosts would speak. There were a number of attempts to relate the ghost we become when we watch action from a distance, to some sort of on screen ghost-mediator representative.
Here we have a Jane Marple type, played by a famous theatrical actress. She is a medium, brought in to solve a murder by going into a trance. The actual mystery is not well woven here, but that is beside the point. The way it is reported is what is interesting. She has a contact on the other side called "little eyes." (I'm not making this up.) In the middle of a séance, Little Eyes is about to reveal the name of the murderer when the querent is killed (stabbed) and the session ends. It was dark; everyone was holding hands; the room was locked; a thorough search found no knife; the medium had been tied to a chair.
An inspector is called, and he enters into a standard inspector/Miss Marple mode, where she solves the mystery by once again doing a séance, this time with the corpse in a chair.
History, folks. These things are the anthropology of our imagination.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
There is nothing wrong with this film. It's just pretty lightweight. It does have a nice cast and the theme of the supernatural helps keep one's interest. When the chief character admits to being a charlatan, we would think there would be a slide downward. However, Dame Mae Witty, who is no stranger to mystery, having played the role of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in several films, manages to put life in this when she has to abandon her "talents" and figure out a way to solve the case and keep an innocent person from being charged with murder. There are other supporting actors who are great characters and a tight little plot that takes only a little over an hour to run its course. I have a soft place in my heart for these early British detective pieces.
During a séance to draw out a murderer, another murder is committed. Psychic medium Dame May Witty works to solve both murders, which becomes personal when one of the prime suspects is someone close to her. Pretty good B murder mystery from MGM with a great cast. Dame May Witty, Lewis Stone, Henry Daniell, Holmes Herbert, and Charles Trowbridge are all class acts. Madge Evans and Elissa Landi are lovely. A good way to spend an hour and change. Remake of a movie made twice before, most notably by Tod Browning in 1929 with Bela Lugosi and Conrad Nagel. White-haired Lewis Stone's mustache is so light you can barely make it out but kudos to him for trying. If you haven't seen it, try to avoid reading much about it as most plot descriptions (including the TCM info) give away a fairly big plot point.
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