Philip Trent is tired of playing film detective Shelby James. He thinks that the stories are tripe and plans a vacation to get away from Hollywood. But on the ship, he meets a mysterious ... See full summary »
... is all I can say about the villain in this one. On graduation day at a small college the head of the physics department announces he will soon step down and announce his successor shortly. Professor Marvin Griswald (Henry Daniell) has been letting his wife do the research work and he's been taking the credit with her full knowledge of course. She's on the threshold of a discovery that will shake the foundation of physics, and with Marvin taking the credit he's sure to get the department headship, or so he thinks - he's chomping at the bit for this promotion. Unfortunately for Marvin, he's let his loins get the best of him and has been flaunting his infidelity with a pretty young student in his wife's face. She decides to retaliate by summarizing her notes into one small book, destroying the original notes, and refusing to let Marvin have the summary book. Plus she's leaving him, which seems to be the least of the bad news as far Marvin is concerned.
That night, as a party goes on downstairs, Marvin enters his wife's room and does something just awful that shocks her and causes her to have a heart attack and die. Marvin has committed the perfect murder - her weak heart is a well known fact - but unfortunately his wife's notes are no longer in her purse as they were just an hour before. Wherever could they have gone? Now Marvin is in the clear up to now, but based on merely guessing as to which of the guests could have his wife's notes he invades home after home and commits several more homicides trying to find the notes - and these murders definitely do not look like heart attacks.
Fortunately, ace detective Chris Cross (Edmund Lowe) is on the scene and was at the party, since he is an old friend and ex-student of the retiring department head. Like Nick Charles, he prevents the police from arresting the wrong man, and the cast even includes Nat Pendleton playing the same type of easily flustered flat foot that he played in The Thin Man.
Unlike The Thin Man, you'll figure out who has the dead woman's notes from the start and you definitely know who the killer is. Also unlike The Thin Man there is a prolonged rather odd scene set in a sauna in which Chris Cross, Nat Pendleton's character, and the escaped falsely accused suspect sit around relaxing and steam cleaning their pores trying to figure this whole mess out.
Then there's the matter of Marvin's young mistress. She didn't start Marvin on his homicidal rampage or even assist him, but she's an accessory since he's told her everything and she didn't call the police. Like Anne Boleyn, she's got to realize that if her lover will kill to keep her and consolidate power he'll do the same to her if he ever wants to rid himself of her, especially now that she knows so much.
Like I said at the beginning, so much education, so little common sense. Highly recommended if you want to see a crime drama that is definitely off the beaten path yet is well done.
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