1938's "The Missing Guest" was Universal's first remake of their 1933 classic "Secret of the Blue Room," to be followed six years later by a second, "Murder in the Blue Room," in 1944. The first was distinguished by its fine cast and atmospheric Germanic setting, while the third was distinguished by its more lighthearted musical format, also benefitting from a good cast of familiar faces. Here, although the haunted seaside mansion on Long Island looks suitably eerie, the film is weighed down with a ton of obnoxious newspaper clowns, led by Paul Kelly's insulting 'Scoop' Hanlon, who sneaks in to conduct his own investigation of the ghostly goings on. The forbidding blue room is the salon where various owners of the mansion all met mysterious deaths, and young Larry Dearden (William Lundigan) insists on spending the night in that same room, convinced that he may discover how his father died there 20 years before. This film introduces a doctor character (Edwin Stanley) absent from the 1933 original, but retained in the next remake, around whom the solution is found (a different one for all three movies). This is also the only one to downplay the police investigators, as two excons arrive to annoy the entire household, making the last half extremely trying after at least a decent beginning. Both remakes have the camera arrive at the haunted mansion, scaring the maid who opens the front door, and have identical seaside locations (the original was set in a castle with a moat). Saddest of all, there isn't a single likable character in this idiot bunch, even leading lady Constance Moore (replaced by the far more amiable Anne Gwynne in the 1944 version), inexplicably falling for the dishonest Scoopster who naturally winds up solving the case single handed, after dozens more nosy reporters make life hell for the harried occupants. "Secret of the Blue Room" was the only one of the three issued as part of Universal's SHOCK! package released to television in 1957, but all three found their way to Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater, with "The Missing Guest" airing May 1 1976 (following 1972's "Gargoyles") and Nov 26 1977 (following 1971's "The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler"), not seen on TV since 1988 (no great loss in this case, as its obscurity is well deserved).
1 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?