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|Index||11 reviews in total|
I enjoyed this movie very much. Considering it is a B-movie, in my opinion, it is a good B-movie. It is based on the mystery novel "The Mystery of Hunting's End" by Mignon G. Eberhart, and the movie title "Mystery House" is very appropriate, since a group of people are gathered together in a house where a man was murdered. The acting by the entire cast is good. With the exception of Dick Purcell and Ann Sheridan, I was not familiar with any of them. It is a short movie, but there is much action in less than one hour. I would recommend this movie to anyone who is interested in a good mystery movie. The hour went by very fast.
All things considered Mystery House is not a bad product coming out of
Warner Brothers B picture unit. It's another one of those classic
shootings in a locked room, where the verdict can be nothing else, but
suicide. Or can it?
The members of the board of directors of a company are gathered on a retreat where the president confronts them with his suspicion that one of them is guilty of embezzlement. He's found shot to death in a locked room, but the man's daughter can't believe it wasn't murder so she hires a private detective and invites the whole lot of them back to the retreat where the crime occurred.
Two murders later and we have an answer. No hints at all as to who and how, but I will say the weapon is in plain sight.
Ann Sheridan and Dick Purcell are our leads and television fans will spot a future detective in William Hopper who played Paul Drake on the Perry Mason series.
Back in 1938 when it ran as the second feature of a double bill, I don't think too many people left their seats.
This high-speed version of one of Mignon Eberhardt's classically
plotted mysteries is directed by Noel Smith, one of Warner's experts in
short features, timing in at a bit less than one hour. Mr. Smith spent
much of the 1930s and 1940s directing second feature westerns and
Half a dozen people are isolated in a house while the detective tries to figure out which of them, all with excellent motives, committed the murder. This sort of mystery requires a tremendous amount of talking, and people talk fast. Unhappily, most of the dialogue is exposition and delivered a bit stiffly. Visually, it's very nicely done with some excellent tracking shots to maintain good composition and an overall look like an Old Dark House movie. The print, like many of the major studios' B movies of this period, is in excellent shape.
Over all, it's a pleasant way for mystery fans to spend an hour with a story that will keep you guessing until the end.
I was pleased to see that more than a few folks here on IMDb knew who
Mignon G. Eberhart was. "Mystery House" was based on one of Eberhart's
'Nurse Keate' stories. In a nutshell, these stories are all murder
mysteries, all use a medical pretext as a plot springboard, and all
feature a hospital nurse, Miss Keate, plus a detective named Lance
O'Leary (Dick Purcell, in this outing).
Ann Sheridan was the only actress to portray Nurse Keate more than once; --her other showing was in "The Patient in Room 18" --a weaker entry, which starred Patric Knowles as Detective O'Leary. The weakest Keate has to be Marguerite Churchill, who was called 'Nurse Keating' in "Murder by an Aristocrat."
As good as Ann Sheridan was as Nurse Keate, she was easily bested by Aline McMahon's turn as the sleuthing nurse in the Warners' Eberhart story, "While the Patient Slept." Even though Eberhart's characters appeared in several films, it would probably be inaccurate to describe these films as a "series."
In "While the Patient Slept," Guy Kibbee played the oldest O'Leary of them all, --however, he filled the part with character and gusto, --traits that both Dick Purcell and Patric Knowles lacked.
Most of those who commented here, appreciated the film's supporting cast, but largely didn't know who any of them were. I also liked the supporting cast, and think it's worth mentioning some of those actors here.---
1)-William Hopper, who would later become known for his 9-year stint as Paul Drake, in the Perry Mason TV series on CBS.
2)-Anne Nagel, a beautiful actress who never rose above B-movie roles (such as this one). She appeared in films such as "The Mad Doctor of Market Street" and "Murder in the Music Hall.". Nagel also had a Perry Mason connection, although not to the TV series. She appeared as Janice Alma Bromley (the "fake Janice") in the Mason film, "The Case of the Stuttering Bishop."
3)-Ben Welden: A "tough guy" in hundreds of films and early TV shows, Welden specialized in playing hoods, --often as comic relief. In "Mystery House," it's Welden's toupee that figures in the plot. A steady worker, Welden had parts in at least 18 films in 1938 alone, the year of "Mystery House." Some of his 1938 output included: "Smashing the Rackets" "Crime Ring" "The Saint in New York" and "Time Out for Murder." In early television, Welden racked up multiple appearances in programs such as "Space Patrol" "The Lone Ranger" and "The Adventures of Superman."
4)-Dennie Moore, --a marvelous supporting actress, who's Jersey accent kept her typecast in films. She was often cast as a maid, or a shop-girl, or as a 'comic sidekick' to the heroine. Moore is best remembered for her brief (though, pivotal) role as Olga the manicurist, who "spills the beans" to Norma Shearer's character in the 1939 blockbuster film, "The Women."
5)-Elspeth Dudgeon, the elderly actress who played the wheelchair-bound aunt in "Mystery House" was a true wonder to behold. Though often seen in very small parts, where folks cannot remember her name, many viewers marveled at her role as Ernest Thesiger's father, the bedridden Sir Roderick Femm (yes-- she played a MAN - with whiskers!) in "The Old Dark House." In that film's closing credits she was billed as "John" Dudgeon! Personally, my fave screen appearance by Ms. Dudgeon was in Warner Brothers 1936 B-mystery-comedy, "Sh! The Octopus." If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it for you. I will, however, say that Dudgeon simply steals the movie, near it's climax.
Other supporting-actors who appeared in "Mystery House" include Sheila Bromley, Eric Stanley, and Trevor Bardette (another veteran who has hundreds of screen appearances to his credit).
Any discussion of the Nurse Keate films would be incomplete without mentioning "The Great Hospital Mystery" --produced by 20th-Century/Fox, and starring Jane Darwell. While most of the Eberhart/Keate yarns were filmed by Warners, this lone 20th/Fox effort stands out for many reasons. It features a superior cast of supporting actors. In addition to Oscar-winner Jane Darwell, the cast includes Sig Ruman, Sally Blane, William Demarest, Joan Davis, and Thomas Beck.
If you're an Eberhart/Keate fan, "The Great Hospital Mystery" is the film you must not miss. It's an atmospheric little mystery, best seen late at night....when you're all alone.
Noel M. Smith, Director of this film was a veteran of films and created many films during the Silent Era. This film takes place in an old house, more like a cottage and it occurs during a very bad snow storm with horrible winds blowing and drifting snow against the window panes. There is a group of men attending a board meeting and their wives and girlfriends who are visiting this mysterious house. The men have found out that their business has been cheated out of a large sum of money and they have all gathered together to find out just who forged papers and stole all the company's funds. There is a man who kills himself in a locked room and two other murders happen. Lance O'Leary, (Dick Purcell) is an investigator who is called in by a nurse Sarah Keate, (Ann Sheridan) who attends one of the older members of the household. This film is a B film, but will definitely hold your interest and keep you glued to your seats. Enjoy.
MYSTERY STREET gives laconic DICK PURCELL the leading role, while ANN
SHERIDAN is seen in one of her early roles at a time when the studio
was grooming her for bigger things in the future. She's a nurse caring
for a crotchety old woman (ELSPETH DUDGEON) in a wheelchair, an old
woman who is annoying as all get out as she bosses everyone around.
The setting is a snowbound hunting lodge, a handsome cabin where all of the suspects in a rich man's murder are gathered for the weekend, while Sheridan summons her boyfriend detective Purcell to unravel the murder case. He does so, with the help of a few clues that lead to the murderer's identity and in time for a happy ending with Sheridan promising to marry him.
It's standard stuff, respectable enough to play the lower half of double bills back in the '30s. Fans of "Perry Mason" on TV, will recognize WILLIAM HOPPER (with dark black hair), but most of the cast consists of largely unknown players.
Lasting only a brisk 56 minutes, it passes the time quickly and is a moderately entertaining B-film mystery.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Suicide wasn't quite painless for the elderly patriarch of a greedy
family, especially when it appears to have been murder! Suspicions of
foul play lead to a reunion of everybody who was there that night, and
more "suicides" begin to occur. All the archetypes of this type of
melodrama appear including a grumpy wheelchair bound aunt (sister of
the first victim who may have motives of her own), greedy and grieving
children, sinister servants, a noble nurse and an unwelcome detective
whose presence leads to attempts on his own life. Clues are found in
the lining of a toupee, the aunt isn't as frail as she pretends to be,
and when somebody is caught with their hands in the till, all
suspicions point to them.
A young Ann Sheridan plays the nurse of the dowager British character actress Elspeth Dugeon who had moved from bit parts the previous year to an unforgettable performance in the low-budget comedy thriller "Sh! The Octopus!". After years of being an extra, Sheridan had slowly risen to "B" leads but other than a few where she was paired with Pat O'Brien, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney, the material she was given was genuinely weak. Dick Purcell plays her detective pal who obviously wants a bit more. Other than Elspeth Dugeon, the only really interesting performance here is the "Rin-Tin-Tin" type dog who has a fear of rifles and seems to know through his bark who the killer is. This genuinely ranks at the bottom of the rung of Warner Brothers' "B" unit, made difficult to tolerate even at an hour's running time because of the film's slow pacing and stage play like setting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Mystery House" is another film with Sarah Keate / Sally Keating where the nurse (here working privately, in the service of a grouchy old lady in a wheelchair) is involved in a murder mystery but, just like in "The Murder Of Dr. Harrigan", does no amateur sleuthing herself, as I had been led to believe; the detective duties are handled by a professional in the field, her private investigator boyfriend. The film is notable for a clever solution to its "locked-room" puzzle, but the supporting characters are played by largely unknown or forgotten today actors, and it's difficult to tell some of them apart; three of the men look almost exactly alike! Despite an ideal setting (an isolated and snowbound hunter's lodge), "Mystery House" is a middle-of-the-road entry in the genre. ** out of 4.
It's a decent if unremarkable little mystery with many clichés from
that whodunit saturated decade. There's the puzzle of murder in a
locked room, an old dark house, and suspects aplenty. Of course, the
culprit is exposed amid a climactic assembly of suspects, perhaps the
biggest cliché of all. As detective Lance O'Leary (that name should
have been reconsidered), actor Purcell has nearly zero charisma, which
unfortunately eliminates someone for the audience to identify with. And
even the formidable Ann Sheridan is denied her usual pizazz. Only
crotchety old Aunt Lucy (Dudgeon) projects real personality. What the
movie does have going for it is a clever solution to the locked room.
The studios (here it's Warner Bros.) turned out hundreds of these competent little programmers year after year, a tribute to their professionalism. Of course, a whodunit like Mystery House would migrate later on to TV, especially to a series like Perry Mason (1957- 1966), where the suspects would assemble in a courtroom. Speaking of Mason, catch a sleek, young William Hopper years before his personable detective role on the Mason series.
All in all, the movie's main value may be in it's representative nature of what people went to see on a slow Saturday evening so many years ago.
Mystery House (1938)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Rare murder/mystery from Warner has a banker committing suicide but his daughter thinks he was murdered so she invites all the guests from that night back to the house hoping the killer will slip up. Only God knows how many of these "old dark house" films were made throughout the 1930s but this one here is pretty good due to some nice direction and a short running time that makes the film fly by. All of the characters are a lot of fun so this keeps the movie going as well. The ending comes out very well and the mystery is a good one.
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