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Murder by Television (1935)

Approved | | Mystery, Thriller | 1 October 1935 (USA)
James Houghland, inventor of a new method by which television signals can be instantaneously sent anywhere in the world, refuses to sell the process to television companies, who then send ... See full summary »


Clifford Sanforth


Joseph O'Donnell (screenplay), Clarence Hennecke (idea) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Bela Lugosi ... Dr. Arthur Perry / Edwin Perry
June Collyer ... June Houghland
Huntley Gordon ... Dr. Henry M. Scofield (as Huntly Gordon)
George Meeker ... Richard Grayson
Henry Mowbray Henry Mowbray ... Nelson - Chief of Police
Charles Hill Mailes ... Prof. James Houghland
Claire McDowell ... Mrs. Houghland
Hattie McDaniel ... Isabella - the Cook
Allen Jung ... Ah Ling - the Houseboy (as Allan Jung)
Charles K. French ... Donald M. Jordan
Larry Francis Larry Francis ... Mendoza
Henry Hall ... Hammond
Billy Sullivan Billy Sullivan ... Reardon - Watchman (as William 'Billy' Sullivan)
William H. Tooker William H. Tooker ... Allen (as William Tooker)


James Houghland, inventor of a new method by which television signals can be instantaneously sent anywhere in the world, refuses to sell the process to television companies, who then send agents to acquire the invention any way they can. On the night of his initial broadcast Houghland is mysteriously murdered in the middle of his demonstration and it falls to Police Chief Nelson to determine who the murderer is from the many suspects present. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A STORY OF A PERFECT CRIME (original poster) See more »


Mystery | Thriller


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

1 October 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Houghland Murder Case See more »


Box Office


$35,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Cameo Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


For the scenes showing television equipment, the filmmakers borrowed it from L.A.-area researchers who were working on experimental TV. The equipment they borrowed was worth $75,000 - over twice the $35,000 production budget for the film. See more »


When Isabella (the cook) finds the body at the top of the stairs, she simply disappears into thin air. (This may be due to missing footage in the extant print, rather than an error by the original filmmakers.) See more »


[first lines]
Hammond: Have you been holding that wire to the coast open?
See more »


Featured in Rumble Fish (1983) See more »


I Had the Right Idea
Music and Lyrics by Oliver Wallace
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Death by Boredom
6 January 2005 | by sol1218See all my reviews

(Some Spoilers) Dull whodunit about a televised murder that wasn't planed by the person putting on the show. James Houghland, Charles Hill Mailes,is an idealist when it comes to his new invention of being able to transmit a TV signal across the world.

Approched by agents from an unnamed country about buying his new technology he tells them to get lost which makes them very mad at him. Having a demonstration that evening of his new invention Houghland puts the people assembled there to sleep with a long and boring monologue about how we can now see events all across the world on his TV gadget without any relay systems.

As Houghland gets to tell us about the continent of Africa and it's inhabitants, as were watching this all on what looks like a 32 inch black & white TV screen, Houghland suddenly looks as if he's either having an attack of indigestion or that he slipped on a banana peal and dies! This believe it or not was the most exciting scene in the whole movie. It's determined that Houghland was murdered, even though there wasn't a mark on him, and the police are called in and seal off the mansion where this TV demonstration was taking place to prevent the murderer from escaping.

Bela Lugosi plays a duel role of sorts in the film by being identical twins who are so identical that they have the same first and last names: Arthur Perry. Perry being a top engineer to Houghland in helping him create his new TV invention was on the scene at the time of his death and is suspected of murdering him.

It turns out that it was his twin brother, also named Arthur Perry, who was there impersonating him the real Arthur Perry, and trying to cash in, by selling out Houghlands secret by getting an offer he couldn't refuse $100,000.00. This from a rival communication bigwig Donald Jordan, Charles K. French, and then going to work for him. Perry is soon exonerated of the crime of murdering his boss Houghland by being murdered himself by the person who murdered Houghland.

By now the movie is going nowhere with the cast just standing around looking off screen for directions from the obviously lost in space director. Then all of a sudden as if he rose from the dead Perry, the other twin brother, appears as if nothing happened to him! He was undercover in the mansion during the entire incident. It turns out that not only is he the one who helped Houghland in his new TV invention but is also a agent for what looks like the FBI and breaks the case wide open. By Perry exposing the killer Dr. Henry Scofeld, Huntly Gordon, who was working for a foreign government who wanted to buy Houghlands invention; but were given the finger by him instead.

Using an interstellar frequency, a death ray, Dr. Scofield activated it as Houghland was giving his televised speech that interacted with the TV signal that eventually killed him. With that Dr. Scofield is arrested and casually led away by two plain clothes policemen. Who looked like their going out to dinner with him instead of taking him into custody for murder! With the movie finally over we and the movie cast can now all get back to something far more exhilarating like breathing oxygen.

Unbeliveably boring film with a very restrained Bela Lugosi who seemed to have trouble, like everyone else in the movie, staying awake. The ending of the film where Bela, Arthur Perry, slowly and methodically reacted the entire scene of Houghlands death, that was secretly filmed by him, was as complicated as a class in advanced quantum psychic at Harvard University.

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