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An old lady is taken to court by her heirs because they feel she is wasting
her fortune and that she should be put away for her own safety. Turning the
tables on the greed family in the courtroom she insists that any of her
heirs who want a piece of her money show up at her house that night. What
happens next is a very enjoyable murder/comedy as people start dying as
every scrambles to find the fortune.
Anyone expecting anything other than a silly time should stay as far away from this movie as possible. Yes, there is a mystery, but there are a good bunch of laughs as well, as reporter Wallace Ford and his girl wander among the crazies trying to get a story while trying to stay alive.
I really like this film, especially the old lady that who is smarter than the relatives who are trying to put her way. This is a good friend of a movie that I'll take out now and again when I need to just sit and veg.
If you come across it, by all means give it a try, we all need to laugh now and then.
No doubt prompted by the success of Elliot Nugent's 1939 remake of THE CAT
AND THE CANARY, Monogram's MURDER BY INVITATION is a spit polishing of
doings distinguished by a cagey awareness of its own derivativeness. Like
the imperiled teens of Wes Craven's SCREAM, the dramatis personae here
heirs to a sizeable legacy - enter into danger with full knowledge of the
rules of the game - with comic star Wallace Ford (FREAKS) even cracking:
`I'm the handsome young juvenile of this story he never gets hurt.'
Supporting the ever-watchable Ford is a cast of faces familiar from the Poverty Roll payroll: Sarah Padden (THE MAD MONSTER), Dave O'Brien (THE DEVIL BAT, REEFER MADNESS), Minerva Urecal (THE CORPSE VANISHES) and John James (DEVIL BAT'S DAUGHTER), as well as Marian Marsh (Trilby to John Barrymore's SVENGALI) and Gavin Gordon (Lord Byron in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN). A former Edison camera man turned prominent silent film director (ABRAHAM LINCOLN), Phil Rosen exhibits little enthusiasm for George Bricker's scenario, and seems grateful that the conventions of the murder mystery allow characters to remain seated for long stretches at a time. French cameraman Marcel Le Picard also shot the low-rent SPOOKS RUN WILD and VOODOO MAN.
Not a must-see film, but undemanding fun for fans of the murder mystery - and Wallace Ford never disappoints.
This is a formula piece. It's been done a hundred times. The greed of the relatives causes them to try to get the old lady committed. Their motives are so obvious that any chance they had goes down the tube within minutes. Now they're in over their heads and have to use their resources to survive. Meanwhile, the red herrings start swimming upstream. I should have hated it, but the crazy overacting and general being of the film are rather pleasant in a maniacal sort of way. The conclusion is satisfying and justice is done. The one drawback is that the bad guys are so pathetic and incompetent that they don't pose much of a threat.
Perennial second-from-the-left-cop-in-the-station-house, George Guhl, has a featured role, would you believe, in Monogram's 1941 tale, Murder by Invitation, which turns out to be a sort of Mrs Longfellow Deeds Meets the Cat and the Canary. With halfway competent direction and a halfway appropriate budget, this may well have turned out as sleeper of the year. The money is there all right, but Phil Rosen's direction is strictly from hunger. The picture's potential is unrealized. Obviously left largely to their own devices, the players do what they can to salvage the film. Although inclined to over-act, I thought Sarah Padden carried off the main role with a fair amount of conviction, although other reviewers disagree. George Guhl was a big letdown, and I was also disappointed that Marian Marsh was simply just another pretty blonde in this outing and no longer the charismatic charmer of Beauty and the Boss.
Talk about screwy films! "Murder By Invitation" almost takes first place! A daffy old lady, Aunt Cassie (a terrible performance by Sarah Padden who seems to be reading her lines off of cue cards) invites her greedy relatives to her country estate for the weekend and murders start to pop up all over the place. A reporter (Wallace Ford) and his secretary (Marian Marsh) arrive at the estate to get the scoop. Minerva Urecal (whom I usually like) overacts here as one of Aunt Cassie's relations. J. Arthur Young is totally offbeat as Trownbridge Montrose (Aunt Cassie's neighbor). Dave O'Brien is good, as usual, though as the estate's chauffeur. Zany dialog is almost unbelievable at times and Ford (although likable) is too old to be pretty Marsh's sweetheart boss. In spite of itself, "Murder By Invitation" is a film that works, although I don't quite know how!
Rich old Aunt Cassie considers herself "the only sane person in a
family of nitwits." She invites her greedy relatives to the creaky
family mansioninstructing them to arrive on Friday at midnightwhere
she will decide which of them will inherit her millions. Needless to
say, it's not long before the murders start
Vanishing corpses, secret passagewaysmurder spoof elements abound in this extremely goofy murder mystery. Assorted crackpot characters include several shifty relatives, an oddball sheriff, and a snoopy neighbor.
Sarah Padden cackles gleefully as the eccentric Aunt Cassie. Wallace Ford is tough to dislike as wisecracking newspaper reporter Bob White. Marian Marsh is lively and likable as White's assistant Nora, although she isn't given much to do except keep up with Ford's jokes and detective work.
This Monogram production is certainly a cheapie: while some scenes look like they may have been rehearsed, others definitely don't. However a sense of good natured fun carries the picture along, and joviality mostly makes up for lack of production polish.
Also livening up this B mystery are a few cute comments alluding to the fact that this is, in fact, a B mystery. Just past the midway point, for example, Ford discusses the two missing corpses: Dead bodies, he says, always go missing in murder mysteries and "it generally happens just past the middle of the picture."
It ain't profound but it's pretty easy viewing for those who enjoy good silly lowbrow fun.
And what a great closing line!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Marian Marsh should have been a much bigger star. In my opinion, she
was unforgettable in "Five Star Final" (1931) when she hysterically
cried "Why did you kill my mother"!!!! As it was she was one of the
most beautiful starlets of the early 30s, who opted for marriage rather
than fame. In this, one of her last films, she is stunning and it is a
pity she didn't make more films.
A family is trying to get their aunt declared mentally incompetent, so they can get their hands on her $3 million dollar fortune. She sends each of them a letter saying if they want to stay in her will, they will have to come to her mountain lodge at 12 midnight.
When one of the relatives is murdered Bob White (Wallace Ford) ace reporter is called in to cover the story. Along with his very smart and sassy secretary O'Brien (Marian Marsh) he tries his best to solve the crime.
This is a good comedy mystery where everyone seems to have a motive, even the aunt. The aunt has her suspicions about her neighbour - an odd old gentleman, who likes to wander the garden at midnight, smelling the roses!!! He had asked her to marry him many years ago and she couldn't make up her mind!! Aunt Cassandra (Sarah Padden) has a strange idea about how to catch the murderer - she has already given $3 million dollars to photographer Eddie, for safe keeping. She now declares she will burn down the stately lodge, thinking the murderer, who is only after her money will panic and reveal themselves.
Thsi film is one of those Old Dark House murder mystery films that
Hollywood was so fond on in the 1940s. This B movie stars Wallace Ford
as a popular newspaper columnist and Marian Marsh as his
A rich old lady (Sarah Padden) is claimed to be insane by her family and is taken to court. The court declares her sane. Shrotly thereafter she invites all her family members to her mansion in upstate New York to spend the week so that she can watch over them to decide who to leave her $3 million estate. One by one family members are murdered, with the killer seemingly hiding and watching from hidden passageways that are throughout the house.
A typical second feature film, this movie is somewhat enjoyable, but for those of you who are used to suspenseful spooky house movies, this is not what you are looking for. This movie is in the public domain and as such can be easily found on DVD and VHS.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well you'll have yourself some fun with this murder mystery even if it
turns out to be somewhat nonsensical by the time it's over. The family
of sixty five year old Cassandra 'Cassie' Denham (Sarah Padden) is
trying to have her declared incompetent so they can get a crack at her
three million dollar estate. How nephew Garson (Gavin Gordon) figured
he could argue that point by mentioning a five hundred dollar unsecured
loan she made to someone on a handshake just made me shake my head. Who
was the real crazy one here?
During the course of the story, one of the characters mentions that it has all the elements of a good murder mystery, if by that you mean a midnight invitation to a spooky old mansion, a mysterious set of eyes under a hooded mask peering through sliding doors, and a pair of bodies falling out of a closet more than once. I was surprised they didn't use the old lights out trick here as that would have been standard for the era and quite to be expected.
Even with the dead bodies turning up, this one never gets to be all that serious, as New York Evening Star reporter Bob White (Wallace Ford) keeps things light with photographer sidekick Eddie (Herb Vigran) and girl friend Nora O'Brien (Marian Marsh) along for the ride. You won't believe Aunt Cassie's solution to the problem of turning up the murderer; I think she really might have been crazy after all. You don't want to think too much about this one once the final credits roll because when it's all over, the three million was in Confederate bills and the house was up in flames. On top of that, Cassie was going to get married. If you tried to come up with this yourself, you wouldn't be able to do it.
This is a comedy using the murder mystery genre as background. The main
characters are a bit stiff - especially considering this was made in
1941 - but it's not a bad hour spent. The story revolves around old
aunt Cassie, whose odd 'uh-heh' laugh is closer to caricature than
character-defining. The newspaper columnist who serves as the detective
in this film, is played by Wallace Ford. He and his secretary (?) and
photographer play their stereotypical roles no better than the
stereotypes you'd expect. The sheriff - presumably from New York
somewhere, as that's where the court case was heard - sounds more like
an Okie than an upstate New Yorker, and follows his own stereotype of
the hayseed lawman, accent included. Of course, he's a buffoon as well,
asking the newspaper columnist for advice at every turn.
So we know the flaws. Still, this was a B movie, intended as filler, and that's how we should judge it. There's nothing about it that made me want to hit the stop button - unlike some stinkers - and for fans of 1930s mysteries, it's an acceptable detour into comedy. Not laugh out loud comedy, but light amusement. It's out of copyright, and I found it on a 5 CD collection Mystery and Murder: 25 Crime Classics at my library. So it was worth every penny I paid for it.
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