Dapper Inspector Vorobechik ('Wens' for short) is assigned the case of a serial killer who leaves a calling card on his victims; Monsieur Durand. Wens' mistress, struggling actress Mila Malou, determines to get publicity for herself by helping him. Learning that Durand is one of the eccentric tenants of a boarding house at No. 21 Avenue Junot, Wens takes a room in the guise of a Protestant minister; only to be followed by Mila who hardly seems like a minister's wife! Suspects are arrested, but while each is in jail, there's another murder... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
I often wish I could speak French, especially when watching a French movie billed as a mystery/comedy. I can't seem to get my funny bone around the Gallic sense of humor - unless the sub-titles are doing me in. I thought "The Murderer Lives At #21" was a good, worthwhile mystery movie, one which was unsolvable until the end of the picture. I thought Pierre Fresnay was a very good Inspector Wens and I wished there could have been a whole series of Insp. Wens films. I recall that he played the sympathetic part of Capt. Boeldieu in "Grand Illusion", and I have a recording of him in a 1936 Cole Porter musical (he spoke but did not sing).
But why did the aura of menace disappear after the first murder? I really thought we were in for a special treat at that point. I liked the motley collection of suspects at the boarding house but none of them were menacing or threatening, just a peculiar group of people. Suzy Delair's presence is marginally grating, just as it was in "Quai Des Orfevres", and once again regaled us with a forgettable song or two. Someone mentioned the chemistry between Fresnay and Delair was reminiscent of Nick and Nora Charles. That may be so, but as I stated much of the playful banter was lost due to the language barrier. Moreover, I was never a fan of attempts to mix comedy and mystery, which was prevalent up until WW II. I don't think they blend well as one element tends to cancel out the other. This could be the reason for the aforementioned disappearance of the aura of menace.
I gave this picture a rating of 7. The comparison between Clouzot and Hitchcock was not yet a valid one; at this point Hitchcock could mop the floor with the neophyte Clouzot.
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