Two mysterious seamen come from Alan Rogers' past to blackmail him as he seeks to locate his missing daughters. Ellery Queen is called in by Stewart Cole, Rogers' secretary. Queen goes to ... See full summary »
Two mysterious seamen come from Alan Rogers' past to blackmail him as he seeks to locate his missing daughters. Ellery Queen is called in by Stewart Cole, Rogers' secretary. Queen goes to the estate and finds one daughter already there and the second one expected. When she arrives, it is Ellery's secretary Nikki Porter posing as the daughter as Ellery had her intercept the real heiress after learning of a plot to swindle Rogers. The blackmailing seamen are killed at a waterfront café after getting the blackmail money, Rogers is suspected and Inspector Queen arrives to arrest him, but he is also found dead. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
William Gargan solves the case while Margaret Lindsay mixes in every which way
"A Close Call for Ellery Queen" is a snappy mystery put out by Columbia in the good old days of 1942, and it's still as watchable as ever because it's complex and moves swiftly.
In those days, mysteries were brief. This one runs 63 minutes in the print I saw. Actors delivered their lines in a straight ahead way, quickly, and without long filmed pauses and emoting. Emotional states changed quickly and naturally, to be understood by close observation. Viewers have to be on their toes to understand a person in these movies. In this one, you can tell exactly how Margaret Lindsay feels when William Gargan tells her not to follow him into his case, and you know how she feels when she plots to interfere anyway. Gargan is less expressive, but we still know how he feels about her activities. And we are with him as he gathers visual clues. I've always liked Gargan's no nonsense approach.
The supporting casts in old movies often have surprisingly good depth, and this carried over into much of television productions later on. This one has Ralph Morgan, Edward Norris and Charley Grapewin as the main support. All are recognizable presences that make an impression without going overboard and without being assigned grotesque characters by the script. They all have distinctive voices and screen presences.
There's a good deal of comedy. It's not slapstick or silly. It fits the comedy-mystery mixed genre.
The print I watched is missing about 3-4 minutes, and part of this occurs in some slight jumps where dialog goes missing. Also it looks like there's a jump when Gargan is in a motorboat and gets shot at. Overall, it still is watchable. I'm glad it has survived the 71 years.
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