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This is a mystery with elements of comedy. It also has (minor) noir
elements and a romantic touch.
Ricardo Cortez is excellent in the lead. We begin as a man is about to be put to death in prison. The press and the law are there, as well as a few others who like to observe executions.
Things do not go as planned. And Cortez tries to solve the mystery right on the spot. That doesn't work. His girlfriend, reporter Joan Woodbury, gets involved. Iris Adrian is, as always, effective as a moll.
This sort of thing continued to be standard fare at Warner Brothers till the mid-forties. Interestingly, Monogram does it even better here. The list of players boasts only Cortez as a box-office name. But it's cast in a clever and entertaining manner and neatly directed by Phil Rosen.
Newspaper reporter Joan Woodbury sails up to her editor's desk. The
editor is on the phone. "Get me the state prison," he says. Woodbury
doesn't miss a beat: "Making a reservation so soon?" This is the kind
of snappy dialog that makes this an enjoyable lightweight film.
Plenty of movies from this era featured the crime-solving reporter. Many others starred the assistant district attorney tracking down a murderer. I Killed That Man has bothWoodbury as the reporter, and Ricardo Cortez as her boyfriend who also happens to be the assistant D.A. working on the case.
Other familiar elements also abound: rival reporters envious of Woodbury's connections, the poison dart as murder weapon. George Breakston is entertaining as the D.A. office's receptionist and switchboard operatorbesides reading crime non-fiction and proposing inspired solutions to this particular mystery, he offers knowing deductions based on Woodbury's appearance as she sits in his waiting area. (How did he know she got dressed in a hurry that morning? "You got your left stocking on inside out.")
There's only one thing I really want to know after watching this picture: What card catalog numbering system did they use at their local library?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This entertaining mystery is a remake of "The Devil's Mate" (1933)
starring the delectable Peggy Shannon. While she had the main role in
the earlier version, in this film the emphasis shifts to the versatile
A number of people from different walks of life gather to see the execution of Nicholas Ross (Ralf Harolde), but pandemonium breaks loose when he is murdered on his way to the chair!!! Just moments before, he has delivered a speech in which he is about to name his partner in crime. Anyone of the group could be guilty - but who??? Roger Phillips (Ricardo Cortez), from the DA's office, is on the spot and starts to solve it by requesting that everyone remove their clothes!!! Roth was killed by a poisoned dart and Phillips thinks whoever killed him may have the weapon hidden on his person. After interviewing each person, he is still no closer to solving the crime so a re-enactment takes place. Laning (Harry Holman), an elderly grocer from Roth's home town, fondly remembers Nick as a boy when "the only racket he knew about then was a tennis raquet". In a scheme to find the real killer Phillips places Laning under arrest.
Phillip's girlfriend, Geri (Joan Woodbury), is running her own investigation and tracks down Verne Drake (a particularly lovely Iris Adrian) - she remembers a phone conversation Nick had that he was particularly keen on keeping quiet. She also remembers part of the number -1313. Reed (Gavin Gordon) is the person he was talking to and Verne confronts him about a loan of $5,000 that he owes her. When Verne takes him to town to get the money, she dies under suspicious circumstances. Honking the horn to scatter some pedestrians, she collapses at the wheel, poisoned by a dart hidden in the horn. Reed pleads innocent!!!!
As the hunt for the murderer narrows the film employs a three way split screen as Phillips realises who the real murderer is!!! You always knew what to expect from Ralf Harolde - villainy, and the slimier the better. Although never a big star, in 1937, he was involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of his friend, Monroe Owsley (another actor who excelled in oily villains). He left films and when he returned, gaunt and with his hair completely white, it was shown that the stress of the accident had taken it's toll. George Breakston is memorable as the young crime reading receptionist. George Pembroke continues his portrayal of sinister types (he was extremely scary in "The Last Alarm" (1940) He plays Lowell King. John Hamilton, who became familiar as Perry White in the TV series Superman, plays the D.A.
On his way to receive a final toast - in the electric chair! -
condemned Ralf Harold (as Nicholas Ross) pauses to let the assembled
witnesses know he's going to give away the identity of a fellow
criminal. But, just as he is about to reveal the crook's name, Mr.
Harold is stricken by a deadly poison dart. District attorney Ricardo
Cortez (as Roger Phillips) and attractive "Chronicle" reporter Joan
Woodbury (as Geri Reynolds) sift through the suspects, banter
romantically, and try to solve the murder. You've seen this kind of
picture before, but the tired storyline in "I Killed That Man" is
enlivened by its cast and crew.
Director Phil Rosen and his star, Mr. Cortez, were silent screen veterans (they'd worked together) who found less success after the advent of talking motion pictures; but, their skills are clearly evident, as they make the most of this quickly produced, low-budget film. Today, Mr. Rosen is not well-remembered; but, he worked on some of the most important Hollywood films of the teens and twenties (many are lost). Cortez reached a popularity peak in 1926, after working on films with Greta Garbo and D.W. Griffith. The supporting cast does very well, and Ms. Woodbury is a thoroughly charming leading woman.
****** I Killed That Man (11/28/41) Phil Rosen ~ Ricardo Cortez, Joan Woodbury, George Pembroke
I Killed That Man is a fairly typical Poverty Row mystery film. It
tells the tale of a man on his way to execution on Death Row who is
suddenly killed by a poison dart by an unknown assailant while in a
crowded room. The remaining film details the investigation into who is
To be honest there's nothing new here. It delivers what anyone familiar with Poverty Row productions will have come to expect, i.e. not too many thrills, not too many sets and not too many surprises. The film does pick up pace towards the end but it takes it's time getting there unfortunately. I've seen another obscure film from director Phil Rosen Man With Two Lives and that one was quite a bit more entertaining in my opinion. Having said that I have seen a lot worse than I Killed That Man, it's not exactly a bad watch for a rainy weekend morning.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An interesting whodunit set in a prison conference room. A convicted murderer is set for his execution in the electric chair and is given a chance for a last statement after remaining mum during his incarceration. Before he can reveal the name of who placed him in jeopardy he drops dead in front of a room full of reporters and law enforcers and experts. Now one of the witnesses is a murderer, but who? This low-budget thriller is effective in sustaining interest and offers some surprises. Directed by Phil Rosen for Monogram Studios. I KILLED THAT MAN stars strong B-picture stars like: Ricardo Cortez, Joan Woodbury, George Pembroke, Iris Adrian and John Hamilton.
I'm beginning to find that the poison dart must have been quite popular in early mystery films. This is at least the fourth such movie I've seen. This one involves one of these darts cheating the hangman. A convicted murderer is about to enter the death chamber when he collapses. There are news people and an array of characters in the room, so one of them must have done it. After that it's the usual stuff. There is the aggressive young female reporter who would rather be married than continue her career. She gets in a bit over he head, of course, and sets things on edge. This is better than most. The acting is fine, there are some famous character actors, and the movie has a sense of humor. You can tell the production value is pretty good. If you don't think too much you can sit back and enjoy this like a bad TV show.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** While on his way to be executed for murder the tight
lipped convicted murderer Nick Ross, Ralf Harolde,finally opens up his
big mouth and goes on talking endlessly in how he was railroaded by his
un-named boss into the electric chair and now he's going to tell the
whole world who that man is! It's then that Ross suddenly goes into
cardiac arrest and drops dead in front the some dozen hand picked
witnesses who are there to withes his execution.
Assistant D.A Roger Phillips, Ricardo Cortez, who prosecuted the case and was one of those who witness Ross' unexpected demise, with a poison dart shot in his neck, and is determined to find his murderer and goes about it by laying a number of red herrings as to draw Ross' murderer out into the open. it's Ross' girlfriend Verne Drake, Iris Adrian,who becomes the killer's next victim when driving her car as she honks her horn to avoid hitting someone and suddenly drops dead with crusader against the death penalty J. Reed, Gavin Gordon, as her passenger! It turns out that the murder weapon in both Ross & Verne Drake's deaths was a poison dart shot from close range at them!
***SPOILERS***The movie lumbers along until some secret code is broken by woman reporter Geri Reynolds,Joan Woodbury, who after exposing the killer is left at his mercy until Assistant D.A Phillips and a squad of New York's Finest brake into his office and finally apprehend him.The killer himself had covered his tracks by having everyone working for him murdered but left a major clue, a library book on poisons, that finally exposed him to the police and D.A's office. P.S "I Killed That Man" was in fact the very first shown in the theaters movie to be broadcast, three years after it's release, on public TV being broadcast on New York's WNTB Channel 1 on August 7, 1944 at a time when there was less then 1,000 people in the US who owned a TV set!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a difference a decade could make to a man's career. Back in 1931,
Ricardo Cortez was a big name in Hollywood--starring in the first
"Maltese Falcon" film as well as many other A-pictures. Now, in 1941,
he is working for King Brothers Productions--a so-called 'poverty row'
production company. And, he's starring in movies that are clearly
low-budget B-films. It's a shame, as I always liked Cortez's easy-going
acting style, though it's nice to see that despite the pedigree of this
film, he did his usual competent job in the leading role.
The film sure grabs your attention early! The film begins as a man is about to be executed for a murder he doesn't deny committing. However, just before he's to die, he starts to unload to the witnesses--telling them that he killed the man because it was a contract killing. And, since his employer did NOT step in to save him (like he'd promised), he wanted to betray his identity. But, at that moment, the convicted killer suddenly dies--victim of a poisonous dart! But who in the room did it?! The why is certainly not in question! Apart from Cortez, the cast is mostly made up of unknowns--some of which were less than stellar in their acting as well as how well these characters were written. In fact, the plot itself (aside from the dandy introduction) was all pretty standard fare for a 1930s-1940s B-murder mystery--nothing particularly inspired to set it apart from hundreds of other similar films. On the other hand, the film does fill a niche and is a decent example of the genre. For fans of this type of film, it's sure well worth seeing. But, if you aren't a B-mystery fan, you probably should look for a better one with which to start--such as Charlie Chan, Boston Blackie, the Crime Doctor or the Falcon.
By the way, the prison doctor's description of curare was not correct. It does NOT kill instantly but paralyzes the body--causing the heart muscles to stop and the victim to die due to strangulation. If you know a person was injected with the drug, you COULD perform CPR and actually keep them alive until the substance works itself through the system (I learn the coolest things being married to a suspense author). I DON'T recommend you try this at home to see if I am correct, however!
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