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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A great premise wasted

5/10
Author: goblinhairedguy from Montreal
6 August 2004

A haughty theatre critic is co-opted by his editor to investigate a sleazy backstage murder. Reluctant at first, he warms to the task through the enthusiastic prodding of his Shakespeare-loving, cab-driver sidekick and his developing interest in the aristocratic young lady involved in the case. For the Charlie-Chan-like climax, he sets up an audition of Julius Caesar, hoping to lure the murderer into all-to-realistically participating in the assassination scene. Imagine what a breezy and biting satire Hecht and MacArthur could have made of that premise. Unfortunately, the idea ended up at lowly PRC studios, which assigned the picture to Albert Herman, one of the most inept directors in history. At least Ed Wood and Andy Milligan had some flair and energy (no matter how misguided), but Herman just contributed dullness to all he touched (coincidentally, the final plot revelations have some ingredients in common with Wood's "Jailbait"). Thankfully, the cast of B-movie stalwarts makes the entire outing at least watchable. Prolific Dave O'Brien cops a rare leading role, and although disappointingly subdued, he elicits intelligence and charm throughout (unfortunately, he's now best remembered for his giggly emoting in "Reefer Madness" and not his many fine comic character turns in both features and shorts).

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Murder in the Theatre

4/10
Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
2 August 2009

"The death of a performer at a Broadway stage play brings a theatre critic and a police detective together as an unlikely crime-solving duo. The dead performer's niece becomes not only the object of affection for our critic, but also a prime suspect in this death, and some other murders that occur at the theatre. 'The Phantom Killer' sets his sights upon the young woman as his next victim; so, it is a race against time for our heroes to catch the killer," according to the DVD sleeve's synopsis.

Milton Raison's screenplay puts a little spark in this low-budget mystery whodunit. Helpfully, Dave O'Brien (as Anthony "Tony" Woolrich) does well in the lead role; his skills as an actor appear to be much greater than the productions employing him. O'Brien and cab driving sidekick Frank Jenks (as Egbert "Romeo" Egglehoffer) would have made a fine 1950s TV detective team. Leading lady Kay Aldridge (as Claudia Moore) and the supporting cast are also good. Unfortunately, the story becomes meandering, and anti-climactic.

**** The Phantom of 42nd Street (5/2/45) Albert Herman ~ Dave O'Brien, Kay Aldridge, Frank Jenks

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The Phantom Killer strikes

6/10
Author: Chris Gaskin from Derby, England
13 March 2006

I've just seen The Phantom Of 42nd Street for the first time and found it fairly enjoyable, but a little talkie at times.

A critic and police investigate a series of murders that have taken place on the set of a play. Three people have been killed in all and in order to catch the killer, a performance of Julius Caesar is held. Will the killer be caught?

This is an interesting little movie and atmospheric but I found it a little slow moving in parts.

The cast includes Dave O'Brien (The Devil Bat), Kay Aldridge and Alan Mowbray (Terror By Night).

Though not brilliant, The Phantom Of 42nd Street is worth watching. A good time filler for an hour or so.

Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 5.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

I still don't know whodunit...

3/10
Author: MikeMagi from Baltimore MD
4 September 2014

After watching this poverty row mystery -- and re-running the climactic scene three or four times -- there's no need for a spoiler alert. I still have no idea who committed the murders nor why. Which sorta' takes the wind out of watching Dave O'Brien as the drama critic for the New York Record playing amateur sleuth, probing the slayings that are decimating the cast of a New York repertory theater. Then again, why was the film called "Phantom of 42nd Street" when live theater had long given way to grind movie houses on 42 Street by the time it was made in the 1940s? That's easy. While "Phantom of 47th Street Between Seventh and Eighth Avenues" would have been more accurate, it wouldn't have had nearly the cache. And fitting it on marquees -- especially at theaters that played PRC releases -- would have been a challenge.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The archetype of what we boomers used to see as filler on local TV

6/10
Author: David (Handlinghandel) from NY, NY
18 March 2008

This is a creative cheapie from PRC. I like Dave O'Brien. He ought to have had a major career in films. He's good here, but I guess PRC was not the place to forge a career.

I think I saw this on local TV years ago. If not, I saw many mysteries like it.

This is about murders involving a theatrical family. Alan Mowbry, looking quite gone to seed, plays the patriarch. He gets to ham it up a little in "Julius Caesar." Forty-second Street! Wow, are there ever phantoms wandering around! At the time this was made, they were pining for the days of the Ziedgfeld Girl. Then there were legitimate theaters, where plays were performed. Next came years of decline: peep shows, etc. Now it is all cleaned up and is like a vast mall. It isn't much fun. The phantoms will go elsewhere.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Uninspired

3/10
Author: bensonmum2 from Tennessee
7 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Tony Woolrish (Dave O'Brien) is a theater critic thrust into the role of crime reporter. At first he resists, but as the bodies pile up, he realizes the theater is the common thread behind a series of murders. With the help of his trusted cab-driving friend Romeo (Frank Jenks), he sets out to unmask a killer.

Recently, I've watched a good number of low-budget mysteries from the 30s and 40s. The Phantom of 42nd Street is easily (and it's not even close) the worst of the bunch. While there are a few elements of the plot that appealed to me, the movie has way too many problems. The direction is terribly uninspired, leading to an overall dull movie. The sets have that cheap look I associate with the worst of the Poverty Row films. Lighting is non-existent. The acting is hit or miss at best. O'Brien is actually pretty good in the lead role. But at the other end of the acting spectrum, Edythe Elliott gives one of the worst performances I've seen lately. Her delivery is just so stilted and unnatural. Finally, I have an issue with the movie's finale. Agreeing with another comment on IMDb, I've gone back and watched the ending twice and I still can't tell you whodunit. It's a very poor ending to a very unappealing movie. A 3/10 from me.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Modest Programmer

5/10
Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
12 April 2013

A newspaper's drama critic turns detective when he gets mixed up with murder among members of a theatre company. Eventually, a series of murders occurs apparently committed by a mysterious phantom.

Not a bad little detective mystery from low-budget PRC. That's thanks mainly to a lively turn from O'Brien as Woolrich and the decorous Kay Aldridge as Claudia. Then there's the familiar Frank Jenks as the comedy relief cabbie, and a surprisingly delightful Vera Marshe as the lame brain waitress Ginger. The screenplay makes good use of its theatrical setting, and I suspect many of those backstage set-ups were real backstage scenes from PRC's sound stage. Of course, 50-some minutes is scarcely enough time to develop a strong list of suspects or mystery plot, but there's enough colorful characterizations to compensate. All in all, an adequate little time-passer.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

It ain't Shakespeare but they've heard of him

6/10
Author: csteidler from Minnesota
6 September 2011

Tony Woolrich is an oddity for '40s mysteries—a newspaper man who decidedly does not think of himself as a detective. In fact, this film opens with a murder at the theater, and all theater critic Woolrich wants to do is get back to his paper and review the play. He is encouraged to pursue the mystery by his editor, who is understandably upset that the paper has missed a big scoop, and also by his sidekick, Romeo the cab driver. Eventually throwing himself into the job, Tony turns out to be surprisingly good at detective work (for a drama critic, anyway!) and his connections in the theater world help him quickly surpass the little progress achieved by rather dim police detective Walsh (Jack Mulhall).

Dave O'Brien as Tony is earnest and appealing; Frank Jenks as Romeo is appropriately helpful and smart-alecky. (Tony: "I know it's a boorish thing to do but I'd like to follow her." Romeo: "All detectives are boorish, don't let that worry you.") Kay Aldridge is good but unmemorable as leading lady Claudia Moore in a role that doesn't offer much in the way of surprises.

Alan Mowbray is fun as the famous actor at the center of the mysterious events, and even gets to declaim a few lines from Julius Caesar in a climactic scene.

Disguises, old grudges, secret marriages…oh, those actors' lives are so full of intrigue!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The basic story wasn't bad, nor was the leading man...but the acting and dialog were pretty lame

4/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
13 December 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My score of 4 might just be a bit generous to this ultra-low budget film from PRC--one of the worst of the so-called 'Poverty Row studios'--so named because of their very, very low production values. Much of the acting is very, very rough as is some of the dialog. A bit more polish and some better supporting actors would have helped this one a lot--especially since the actors often flubbed the delivery of their lines. As a result, it often seemed pretty amateurish. This is sad because the basic story idea is pretty nifty for a B-mystery and Dave O'Brien (a total unknown) did great in the lead. As a result of appearing in films like this, you can see why he never became a household name.

The story finds O'Brien a theater critic for the local newspaper. Oddly, following a particularly dreary show, one of the theater company members is found dead--murdered! While O'Brien is NOT a crime reporter, his short-tempered boss insists that he investigate further. In typical 1940s fashion, the hero reporter suddenly becomes a private detective--something I assume happened all the time back then!! And, after some clever digging and a few wild guesses, he has an angle on the killer--too bad the stupid police (big surprise) have already arrested the wrong man! Overall, despite some bad acting and writing, the basic story works and the film is an enjoyable little B-movie. While it won't change your life, it is worth a look if you love Bs. Otherwise, you can skip this one and not be missing out on much.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

"Pick the right psychological moment!!!"

6/10
Author: kidboots from Australia
21 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Dave O'Brien is the surprise lead in this mystery - made in between his roles of "Mr Everyman" in the Pete Smith Specialities series. He plays drama critic, Tony Woolrich, who has reluctantly gone to review a new play starring Claudia Moore (Kay Aldridge) in her stage debut. Alan Mowbray, with his perfect diction and superior air is ideal casting as Cecil Moore, Claudia's renowned father. After the performance her uncle is murdered and Tony is sent to interview the Moores.

Another murder is discovered - a nightwatchman and the killer leaves a note that seems to imply that he is connected with the stage. Tony thinks someone is trying to kill Cecil and traces the clues back to a play "Captain Kidd" (the nightwatchman had originally been a stage electrician in Cecil Moore's old repertory company. The star back then was Doris Hill, who under an assumed name now runs a boarding house. Tony thinks she knows something and she does - Claudia Moore is her daughter but Claudia doesn't know who her mother is!!! Doris knows other things too and is able to help Tony piece together the mystery.

There is obviously a few minutes cut out at the start - but it is still easy to follow. I figured out the killer long before Tony!!!

Beautiful Kay Aldridge was given a rare leading role in this, her last film. Although she had been around since the late 30s, usually playing decorative roles, her main claim to fame was as Nyoka, the Jungle Girl. She took over the role in the serial, when the original Nyoka (Frances Gifford) went on to bigger things.

Recommended.

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