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In the middle of an eye-surgery operation in a large hospital, the lights in the operating room go out and the chief surgeon is murdered. It is the job of Police-Detective Spencer to figure out who in the room had something to gain from his death. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
1939's "Mystery of the White Room" was number 6 of the 7 Crime Club mysteries produced by Universal from 1937 to 1939, and one of the three included in the popular SHOCK! package of classic horror films issued to television in the late 50's. Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater aired it twice, on February 8 1975 (following 1969's "Crucible of Horror" and second feature 1939's "The Human Monster") and April 16 1977 (following 1956's "The Creature Walks Among Us"). Boasting as fine a 'B' cast as Universal could offer that year, Bruce Cabot stars as Dr. Bob Clayton, who conducts an emergency operation on another doctor's patient, supported by former chief surgeon Amos Thornton (Frank Reicher, reunited with Cabot after "King Kong"), against the strict hospital rules enforced by current chief surgeon Finley Morton (Addison Richards). The following morning, a different operation finds Morton himself stabbed to death with one of Thornton's stolen scalpels, during a brief blackout engineered from the basement. The unseen thief was spotted by janitor Frank Puglia, whose now blind condition can be averted by delicately transplanting the corneas of the late Dr. Morton (shades of 1944's "Dead Man's Eyes"), hoping that he will then be able to identify the culprit. Among the nurses are an excellent Helen Mack, Joan Woodbury, Constance Worth, and underrated comic relief blonde Mabel Todd, whose distinctive laugh could be adorable or irritating (or even both!). Roland Drew and Don Porter (billed last in his film debut) are suspected doctors, with Thomas E. Jackson ("Little Caesar") as the investigating detective, contributing several sharp rebukes of comic relief ambulance driver Tom Dugan, calling him "Useless" or "You with the face," or my favorite, "would you do me a favor? Go down to the morgue, tell 'em I said you're ready." At another point, Dugan wants to announce his theory to the detective, who says "not while I'm conscious!" An intimate moment between Bruce Cabot and adorable Helen Mack ends with her backing away from a passionate kiss with the memorable line, "is there a doctor in the house?" One thoroughly enjoyable whodunit not weighed down by its comedy, briskly paced at a fast moving 58 minutes. Appearing uncredited are Holmes Herbert as the hospital administrator, Byron Foulger as the coroner, and John Harmon as Pete, the fingerprint man. The next Crime Club would be the last, "The Witness Vanishes."
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