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J. Elder Wills
Anna May Wong,
"Ellery Queen's Penthouse Mystery" from 1941 was a B movie. One of the reviews here complained about the casting and the script. I'm sure this film was slapped together, but I can't say I really minded it. I The cast was terrific: Ralph Bellamy, Margaret Lindsay, Anna May Wong, Ann Doran, James Burke, Eduardo Ciannelli, Charles Lane, and Mantan Moreland.
Noel Madison (Gordon Cobb) is a ventriloquist currently in China. He is known to the Chinese, so he is given jewels that will bring about $300,000 (nearly $5 million today) and provide relief for starving China, who were invaded by Japan in 1937 and brought them under brutal rule.
The Japanese military regime murdered near 3,000,000 to over 10,000,000 people, most probably almost 6,000,000 Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos, and Indochinese, among others, including Western prisoners of war.
Madison makes it back to New York but disappears. His daughter (Ann Doran) asks her friend Nikki (Margaret Lindsay), who works for Ellery, to help locate him. Nikki not only works for Ellery, but she's his competitor. He catches her at one point writing a book on his time about Madison's disappearance.
Mr. Madison is found in his trunk, about to be sent to Chicago. No jewels anywhere. Plenty of suspects though.
I actually like Bellamy in this role. The script provides some humor and he has a nice chemistry with Lindsay. Are these movies true to the Ellery Queen books? No - he didn't have someone like Nikki around, for one thing. Viele was not an object of derision. How often have we seen this type of thing with books made into movies? Tons.
It was a surprise to see the wonderful comic actor Mantan Moreland make an appearance, as well as Charles Lane, who died at age 102 in 2007 after a 65-year career. In 1941 alone, he made 19 films. I remember Ann Doran as one of the mothers in "Lassie" - she's very young here.
All in all, entertaining, though even at a little over 60 minutes, these films can seem longer.
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