|Index||9 reviews in total|
In "The Phantom Thief," Boston Blackie (Chester Morris) is as usual
blamed for anything that goes wrong on Inspector Farraday's (Richard
Lane) watch. This time, as he attempts to help a friend of the Runt's
(George E. Stone) return some jewels he didn't mean to steal, Blackie
finds himself involved with a phony medium (Marvin Miller), blackmail,
and murder, all the while trying to hide from Farraday, sometimes in
Not a bad entry into the series, with Jeff Donnell, who was actually a character actress, playing a duped, wealthy woman with rotten taste in men. She handles her part well, considering she usually played a bubbly, wisecracking friend. Marvin Miller, with dark makeup and that sonorous voice, is effective as the medium. Boomers may remember him as John Beresford Tipton's go-to Mr. Anthony on "The Millionaire." Unfortunately he never made it to my house.
Chester Morris is charming and funny as Blackie, but this time he's not particularly ably assisted by The Runt, who is terrified of all those disembodied hands and skeletons at the séance.
Fast-moving and entertaining.
The Runt has a friend in a jamhe's stolen some "papers" that turn out
to be hot jewels. Boston Blackie is, of course, drawn into the
situation; the friend, of course, is murdered; and Inspector Farraday,
of course, is right there to practically catch Blackie in the act. It
all opens up a case of blackmail, another murder or so, a spiritualist
and a couple of séancesand a fair amount of good-natured tough talk
and silly banter.
By now, Inspector Farraday knows that when he shows up at a murder scene, Boston Blackie is going to be less than cooperative: "All I needed to hear from the men on the beat was that you had a perfect alibi and I took this call myself," he tells Blackie. "Now I'd like to hear some of your best double talk."
Blackie and Farraday operate at full speed in this well-written series entry. Their sidekicks, the Runt and Detective Matthews, are faithful but dumb as usual. The Runt's childish squeals do grow somewhat annoying, but I have to admit it's pretty funny watching him and Matthews cower and yelp together at the séance.
Two female characters play important roles. Jeff Donnell is Anne, a young woman who suffers from nervous troublesor is that diagnosis an invention of the sinister Dr. Nejino, the spiritualist? Less passivemore actively looking out for herselfand more interesting is Dusty Anderson as Sandra, the mystic's assistant, whose loyalties are frequently in question but are mainly to herself.
A pretty good plot and a handful of good gags keep this episode moving. (My favorite bit: Farraday barking into the phone that "We're getting closer to Boston Blackie every minute," unaware that Blackie is at that very momentwell, much closer than Farraday thinks.) A satisfying hour for Blackie admirers.
Post-War Blackie film, a little harder edged than before, but still
with an over-abundance of verbal witticisms and slapstick. The Runt
tries to help a pal accused of stealing a diamond necklace, Blackie
gets involved but can't prevent the pal on the lam getting stabbed in
the back while watching all of the suspects perform at a rather feeble
séance. Huh? It makes sense while you're watching it anyhow, except
maybe who the murderer turned out to be - it must have been Real Dark!
Chester Morris as Blackie seemed a bit more relaxed in here than previously, maybe the absence of a black-face routine helped?! Jeff Donnell as Anne was decorative, even if she did stretch credulity with her credulousness! Marvin Miller as Dr. Nejino was Deeply sinister - thanks mainly to his fruity and succinct baritone voice, Dusty Anderson's only problem as his cohort(?) was to be too tall for everybody else in the film. George E. Stone as Runt was starting to bug me in this one - his whining almost-effeminacy made me wish Blackie would bitch-slap him and stand him in a corner as a naughty little boy and spare us his company for the last 30 minutes or so. Inspector Farraday and Sgt. Matthews played the usual good double act, and even old Jumbo got an airing in a good scene.
All told, nice entry in the series.
This entry in the Boston Blackie series has Blackie trying to help a
young woman who is being blackmailed by a spiritualist, Dr. Nejino,
played by familiar Columbia heavy Marvin Miller. When Blackie confronts
Nejino, the doctor does something unusual for a spiritualist in these
old movies - he admits the whole séance business is an act, but that it
is an act that helps his patients deal with the losses of loved ones in
their own way and in their own time. In the case of the young woman in
question - wealthy Anne Duncan - her father's death has left her
terribly lonely in spite of her recent marriage. So Nejino invites
Blackie to watch one of his séances. The problem is, during the séance
a member of the audience is knifed in the back. Of course, Blackie is
suspect number one in the case.
This one has plenty of good old fashioned haunted house and ghostly fun, and if it seems that magic is a recurring theme in the Boston Blackie series, it is so for a reason. Chester Morris was a very good amateur magician, even entertaining the troops during World War II with his act. Recommended for anyone who specifically likes the Boston Blackie series or the old B detective movies of the 40's in general.
Thought this film was one of the best Boston Blackie films with all kinds of slapstick going on with George E. Stone, (The Runt) and Chester Morris, (Boston Blackie). In this film Richard Lane, (Inspector John Farraday) carries on with the same type of role he has played in other films, only in this film Farraday is constantly accusing Boston Blackie of every murder. The Runt manages to get Boston Blackie involved in a diamond necklace which has been stolen from Jeff Donnell, (Ann Duncan) who gives a great supporting role. Dr. Nejino,(Marvin Miller) performs séance's with all kinds of voices from the dead being heard and ghostly hands floating in the air and plenty of trap doors opening and closing in the closets. This film will entertain you, however, this film is a Classic 1946 film and has plenty of the same old thing which is repeated in all of these B films.
The Phantom Thief has Boston Blackie and The Runt helping out yet
another pal from stir with a burglary problem. Three bodies later
including Murray Alper's their friend and they're up to their necks in
it. The supremely inept police Richard Lane and Frank Sully get
involved once again, but Blackie solves the caper. Would you expect
The series was clearly running out of gas with this episode. The main problem in this film was how George E. Stone could be so dumb in this film. Remember while he's Chester Morris's faithful retainer, Stone is also an a crook and he ought to know about the fake medium racket and the gags they use for the marks. It made no sense to get as hysterical as he did.
This by the way was George E. Stone's farewell to the Boston Blackie series. He was a remarkable player doing everything from the Runt to some good drama with playing Edward G. Robinson's retainer in Little Caesar to one of the big shot gamblers who catches Frank Sinatra cheating in The Man With The Golden Arm.
As for Blackie who knows carnival tricks in a New York minute it's not long revealed that the real victim of spiritualist Marvin Miller is Jeff Donnell another society dame in distress. Without going into the story let's say Donnell has some real bad taste in men.
The Runt is loyal to Blackie, but not as dumb as he's made out here.
Phantom Thief, The (1945)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Boston Blackie (Chester Morris) once again finds himself involved in a murder case where ghosts and a weird fortune teller are suspects. This isn't the best in the series but it's not the worst either and in the end it makes for an entertaining 65-minutes. The mystery this time out is pretty predictable and easy to follow but there are some nice added touches including all the stuff involving the ghosts. The supporting cast is up to their usual nice quality with Richard Lane and George E. Stone back to their old tricks as Farraday and The Runt.
I have now seen every Boston Blackie film with Chester Morris but one and I can say that the series is a very mixed bag. Though the films started off extremely well (blending a nice mixture of action and comedy), they also suffered terribly from repetitive plots. It was as if Columbia Pictures could have cared less that in EVERY episode you have the ignorant Inspector Farraday and his idiotic Sergeant accusing Blackie of whatever crimes are committed--even though in every movie it turns out that not only is Blackie innocent but he solves the crime himself. This schtick gets pretty old after a while and no cop can be half as stupid as Farraday or his sub-human assistant. Plus, plot elements are often recycled (such as two movies where Blackie performs a magic show at a prison and a prisoner uses this to escape, stolen jewels again and again as well as Blackie and Runt dressing up as Black cleaning ladies, etc., etc., etc.). Forutately, aside from the moronic inspector and sidekick, this film IS different and doesn't have that recycled feel to it--with a nifty plot involving a phony psychic and, of course, a murder! The usual good acting and fast pace are of course present and make for an enjoyable romp.
The Runt tries to help a friend accused of stealing stolen jewelry and
that's how the plot of this Blackie entry starts. Naturally, the police
are one step behind Blackie when the plot advances to include a Dr.
Nejino who runs seances and has a lovely assistant, model DUSTY
ANDERSON who towers over the rest of the cast. It seems the doctor
badly wants to get his hands on the stolen necklace.
Dr. Nejino invites Blackie to attend one of his seances so he can witness the effect it has on one of his eccentric women patients (JEFF DONNELL). It turns out that she's had a relationship with Dr. Nejino and wants her stolen necklace back.
The script has Blackie and Inspector Farraday exchanging comic quips and sarcasm over the dead body of Blackie's friend who has been stabbed to death at the seance--one of the story's many unrealistic touches where clever lines rule the day no matter what the situation. The same thing happens with the next murder victim.
It's formula stuff again, with Blackie and The Runt being falsely accused of having something to do with two murders and having to prove their innocence.
GEORGE E. STONE is more annoying than usual as the wimpy Runt, especially during the scene at the seance. DUSTY ANDERSON gives a limp performance as Nejino's pretty assistant and the rest of the cast is strictly by the numbers.
The formula was wearing thin long before this entry was released, but I suppose these films had a certain appeal for audiences when they played the lower half of a double feature bill.
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