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"Murder-on-the-train" mystery has lawyer Malone chasing his paroled embezzler client (Kepplar) who still hasn't paid Malone's fee. When Kepplar jumps parole on a train to Chicago, Malone follows, in company with Kepplar's ex-wife, a police inspector and Mrs. O'Malley, a hearty radio contest winner from Montana. Kepplar is murdered, and a game of musical corpses commences, with hijinks in coach corridors as Malone and Hattie search for the killer. Written by
Mike Rogers <MICHAELPEM@aol.com>
... that could have benefited from the leads having more chemistry, as did the mismatched crime-solving pair of the thirties, Hildegard Withers and Oscar Piper of the Penguin Pool Murder series. Mrs. O'Malley (Marjorie Main) owns/runs a boarding house in Montana and wins a radio contest by recognizing an obscure song, one her late drunken husband apparently sang after he jumped off a roof believing he could fly - thus his status as deceased. Part of her prize is a trip to New York.
Meanwhile, John Malone (James Whitmore) is a big city lawyer that makes good money but whose dissolute lifestyle has his business on the ropes. He gambles, drinks, and womanizes with wild abandon and only with his long-unpaid secretary getting ready to walk and the lights about to be turned off does he suddenly pay attention to his financial house. He thinks he's found a solution though. Steve Keppler, a man jailed for embezzlement whose parole Malone negotiated is getting out of jail and Malone is expecting a 10K fee from him. Also note that Steve Keppler has never given up the 100K that he stole, that he has supposedly hidden the money from his other partner(s) in the heist, and that he has a greedy ex-wife. Keppler skips town without paying off Malone or anybody else, supposedly with the 100K in tow. The police know Keppler's taken a train to New York, and they're aboard as is everyone else who's looking for him. Did I fail to mention Mrs. O'Malley is on this train too, in the compartment next to Mr. Malone? What follows is a murder on board the train with Malone looking like he's been framed and Mrs. O'Malley helping Malone try to solve the mystery before the police can nail him for the crime. Ms. Main holds up her end marvelously with her famous brand of rough verbal and physical comedy, and Mr. Whitmore does well too but for one annoying habit. His character ogles and sophomorically hits on every attractive woman he sees often before the last woman he hit on is two feet away. Mr. Malone needs more Bogart in his routine with women and less Harpo Marx, who is frankly who he reminds me of during these particular scenes.
Overall, this film is more humor than it is mystery, and it is pretty fast-paced. The introductory musical score sounds like something from 50's TV, which is what B features like this were competing with in 1950 with the "attack of the small screens" already eating into studio profits. I recommend this one for an amusing 70 minutes or so of fun.
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