Mystery House (1938) Poster

(1938)

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Nicely crafted Eberhart mystery
cinema_universe5 July 2009
I was pleased to see that more than a few folks here on IMDb knew who Mignon G. Eberhart was. "Mystery House" was based on one of Eberhart's 'Nurse Keate' stories. In a nutshell, these stories are all murder mysteries, all use a medical pretext as a plot springboard, and all feature a hospital nurse, Miss Keate, plus a detective named Lance O'Leary (Dick Purcell, in this outing).

Ann Sheridan was the only actress to portray Nurse Keate more than once; --her other showing was in "The Patient in Room 18" --a weaker entry, which starred Patric Knowles as Detective O'Leary. The weakest Keate has to be Marguerite Churchill, who was called 'Nurse Keating' in "Murder by an Aristocrat."

As good as Ann Sheridan was as Nurse Keate, she was easily bested by Aline McMahon's turn as the sleuthing nurse in the Warners' Eberhart story, "While the Patient Slept." Even though Eberhart's characters appeared in several films, it would probably be inaccurate to describe these films as a "series."

In "While the Patient Slept," Guy Kibbee played the oldest O'Leary of them all, --however, he filled the part with character and gusto, --traits that both Dick Purcell and Patric Knowles lacked.

Most of those who commented here, appreciated the film's supporting cast, but largely didn't know who any of them were. I also liked the supporting cast, and think it's worth mentioning some of those actors here.---

1)-William Hopper, who would later become known for his 9-year stint as Paul Drake, in the Perry Mason TV series on CBS.

2)-Anne Nagel, a beautiful actress who never rose above B-movie roles (such as this one). She appeared in films such as "The Mad Doctor of Market Street" and "Murder in the Music Hall.". Nagel also had a Perry Mason connection, although not to the TV series. She appeared as Janice Alma Bromley (the "fake Janice") in the Mason film, "The Case of the Stuttering Bishop."

3)-Ben Welden: A "tough guy" in hundreds of films and early TV shows, Welden specialized in playing hoods, --often as comic relief. In "Mystery House," it's Welden's toupee that figures in the plot. A steady worker, Welden had parts in at least 18 films in 1938 alone, the year of "Mystery House." Some of his 1938 output included: "Smashing the Rackets" "Crime Ring" "The Saint in New York" and "Time Out for Murder." In early television, Welden racked up multiple appearances in programs such as "Space Patrol" "The Lone Ranger" and "The Adventures of Superman."

4)-Dennie Moore, --a marvelous supporting actress, who's Jersey accent kept her typecast in films. She was often cast as a maid, or a shop-girl, or as a 'comic sidekick' to the heroine. Moore is best remembered for her brief (though, pivotal) role as Olga the manicurist, who "spills the beans" to Norma Shearer's character in the 1939 blockbuster film, "The Women."

5)-Elspeth Dudgeon, the elderly actress who played the wheelchair-bound aunt in "Mystery House" was a true wonder to behold. Though often seen in very small parts, where folks cannot remember her name, many viewers marveled at her role as Ernest Thesiger's father, the bedridden Sir Roderick Femm (yes-- she played a MAN - with whiskers!) in "The Old Dark House." In that film's closing credits she was billed as "John" Dudgeon! Personally, my fave screen appearance by Ms. Dudgeon was in Warner Brothers 1936 B-mystery-comedy, "Sh! The Octopus." If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it for you. I will, however, say that Dudgeon simply steals the movie, near it's climax.

Other supporting-actors who appeared in "Mystery House" include Sheila Bromley, Eric Stanley, and Trevor Bardette (another veteran who has hundreds of screen appearances to his credit).

Any discussion of the Nurse Keate films would be incomplete without mentioning "The Great Hospital Mystery" --produced by 20th-Century/Fox, and starring Jane Darwell. While most of the Eberhart/Keate yarns were filmed by Warners, this lone 20th/Fox effort stands out for many reasons. It features a superior cast of supporting actors. In addition to Oscar-winner Jane Darwell, the cast includes Sig Ruman, Sally Blane, William Demarest, Joan Davis, and Thomas Beck.

If you're an Eberhart/Keate fan, "The Great Hospital Mystery" is the film you must not miss. It's an atmospheric little mystery, best seen late at night....when you're all alone.

--D.--
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6/10
Another Locked Room Dilemma
bkoganbing24 October 2006
All things considered Mystery House is not a bad product coming out of Warner Brothers B picture unit. It's another one of those classic shootings in a locked room, where the verdict can be nothing else, but suicide. Or can it?

The members of the board of directors of a company are gathered on a retreat where the president confronts them with his suspicion that one of them is guilty of embezzlement. He's found shot to death in a locked room, but the man's daughter can't believe it wasn't murder so she hires a private detective and invites the whole lot of them back to the retreat where the crime occurred.

Two murders later and we have an answer. No hints at all as to who and how, but I will say the weapon is in plain sight.

Ann Sheridan and Dick Purcell are our leads and television fans will spot a future detective in William Hopper who played Paul Drake on the Perry Mason series.

Back in 1938 when it ran as the second feature of a double bill, I don't think too many people left their seats.
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6/10
Good mystery movie
marlene_rantz5 May 2005
I enjoyed this movie very much. Considering it is a B-movie, in my opinion, it is a good B-movie. It is based on the mystery novel "The Mystery of Hunting's End" by Mignon G. Eberhart, and the movie title "Mystery House" is very appropriate, since a group of people are gathered together in a house where a man was murdered. The acting by the entire cast is good. With the exception of Dick Purcell and Ann Sheridan, I was not familiar with any of them. It is a short movie, but there is much action in less than one hour. I would recommend this movie to anyone who is interested in a good mystery movie. The hour went by very fast.
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6/10
Classic Eberhardt
boblipton16 March 2005
This high-speed version of one of Mignon Eberhardt's classically plotted mysteries is directed by Noel Smith, one of Warner's experts in short features, timing in at a bit less than one hour. Mr. Smith spent much of the 1930s and 1940s directing second feature westerns and mysteries.

Half a dozen people are isolated in a house while the detective tries to figure out which of them, all with excellent motives, committed the murder. This sort of mystery requires a tremendous amount of talking, and people talk fast. Unhappily, most of the dialogue is exposition and delivered a bit stiffly. Visually, it's very nicely done with some excellent tracking shots to maintain good composition and an overall look like an Old Dark House movie. The print, like many of the major studios' B movies of this period, is in excellent shape.

Over all, it's a pleasant way for mystery fans to spend an hour with a story that will keep you guessing until the end.
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6/10
Scary Old Time Film
whpratt115 January 2008
Noel M. Smith, Director of this film was a veteran of films and created many films during the Silent Era. This film takes place in an old house, more like a cottage and it occurs during a very bad snow storm with horrible winds blowing and drifting snow against the window panes. There is a group of men attending a board meeting and their wives and girlfriends who are visiting this mysterious house. The men have found out that their business has been cheated out of a large sum of money and they have all gathered together to find out just who forged papers and stole all the company's funds. There is a man who kills himself in a locked room and two other murders happen. Lance O'Leary, (Dick Purcell) is an investigator who is called in by a nurse Sarah Keate, (Ann Sheridan) who attends one of the older members of the household. This film is a B film, but will definitely hold your interest and keep you glued to your seats. Enjoy.
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5/10
Ann Sheridan in a Warner B-movie before full-fledged stardom...
Doylenf14 January 2008
MYSTERY STREET gives laconic DICK PURCELL the leading role, while ANN SHERIDAN is seen in one of her early roles at a time when the studio was grooming her for bigger things in the future. She's a nurse caring for a crotchety old woman (ELSPETH DUDGEON) in a wheelchair, an old woman who is annoying as all get out as she bosses everyone around.

The setting is a snowbound hunting lodge, a handsome cabin where all of the suspects in a rich man's murder are gathered for the weekend, while Sheridan summons her boyfriend detective Purcell to unravel the murder case. He does so, with the help of a few clues that lead to the murderer's identity and in time for a happy ending with Sheridan promising to marry him.

It's standard stuff, respectable enough to play the lower half of double bills back in the '30s. Fans of "Perry Mason" on TV, will recognize WILLIAM HOPPER (with dark black hair), but most of the cast consists of largely unknown players.

Lasting only a brisk 56 minutes, it passes the time quickly and is a moderately entertaining B-film mystery.
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5/10
Mignon Eberhardt mystery on the screen
blanche-227 October 2006
"Mystery House" is a short B film based on a story by mystery writer Mignon Eberhardt. The only recognizable person for me was Ann Sheridan as a nurse caring for an elderly woman, and since I knew William Hopper was in it, I looked for him. I never would have realized it was Paul Drake of "Perry Mason" fame, he looked so young and had no gray hair! The plot concerns a board of directors on retreat at the house of the president of the company. He announces to them that one of the board members is an embezzler. Later he is found murdered, but it is judged a suicide. His daughter hires a detective (Dick Purcell), recommended by the nurse, to investigate. Another murder assumed a suicide takes place. It's getting to be an epidemic. Can the detective solve the case before everybody is dead? There's not a tremendous amount of action in this film, which seemed a little rushed. Also, not knowing most of the actors, it was hard to differentiate the men - they seemed to be all tall with dark hair. This is obviously a very early role for Ann Sheridan, who would move into A films.
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For a Slow Saturday
dougdoepke4 November 2011
It's a decent if unremarkable little mystery with many clichés from that whodunit saturated decade. There's the puzzle of murder in a locked room, an old dark house, and suspects aplenty. Of course, the culprit is exposed amid a climactic assembly of suspects, perhaps the biggest cliché of all. As detective Lance O'Leary (that name should have been reconsidered), actor Purcell has nearly zero charisma, which unfortunately eliminates someone for the audience to identify with. And even the formidable Ann Sheridan is denied her usual pizazz. Only crotchety old Aunt Lucy (Dudgeon) projects real personality. What the movie does have going for it is a clever solution to the locked room.

The studios (here it's Warner Bros.) turned out hundreds of these competent little programmers year after year, a tribute to their professionalism. Of course, a whodunit like Mystery House would migrate later on to TV, especially to a series like Perry Mason (1957- 1966), where the suspects would assemble in a courtroom. Speaking of Mason, catch a sleek, young William Hopper years before his personable detective role on the Mason series.

All in all, the movie's main value may be in it's representative nature of what people went to see on a slow Saturday evening so many years ago.
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5/10
Mostly murky mystery
gridoon201824 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Mystery House" is another film with Sarah Keate / Sally Keating where the nurse (here working privately, in the service of a grouchy old lady in a wheelchair) is involved in a murder mystery but, just like in "The Murder Of Dr. Harrigan", does no amateur sleuthing herself, as I had been led to believe; the detective duties are handled by a professional in the field, her private investigator boyfriend. The film is notable for a clever solution to its "locked-room" puzzle, but the supporting characters are played by largely unknown or forgotten today actors, and it's difficult to tell some of them apart; three of the men look almost exactly alike! Despite an ideal setting (an isolated and snowbound hunter's lodge), "Mystery House" is a middle-of-the-road entry in the genre. ** out of 4.
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Decent
Michael_Elliott11 March 2008
Mystery House (1938)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Rare murder/mystery from Warner has a banker committing suicide but his daughter thinks he was murdered so she invites all the guests from that night back to the house hoping the killer will slip up. Only God knows how many of these "old dark house" films were made throughout the 1930s but this one here is pretty good due to some nice direction and a short running time that makes the film fly by. All of the characters are a lot of fun so this keeps the movie going as well. The ending comes out very well and the mystery is a good one.
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5/10
No time for character development...
calvinnme15 April 2017
... in this short feature based on the old Mignon Eberhart book The Mystery of Hunting's End. A wealthy financier asks a bunch of associates up to his hunting lodge. There he tells them the only way to save the corporation is to use the value of the stock that each of them has. They push back at this for various reasons, some of them saying that the stock is all they have in the way of finances. The banker pulls his trump card and says that they will either let him use the stock to save the company or he will expose one of them as an embezzler. Then he goes to bed.

Shortly thereafter, a shot rings out and the financier is found shot dead in his locked bedroom, a gun near his body. The death is ruled a suicide over the daughter's protest that her father would not end his own life. The nurse (Ann Sheridan), who is caring for the dead financier's wheelchair bound sister, recommends her boyfriend, Lance (Dick Purcell), as a dependable P.I. So the daughter hires the P.I. and invites everybody who was there at the time of her father's murder to the hunting lodge again. None of them can decline because they know they will look guilty.

The P.I. is on hand to try to solve the case. There are some murders among the group as well as some near misses, a shadowy figure traipsing around in the snow outside of the house and peering into windows, the disappearance of some rat poison, and the radio mysteriously just stops working. And why is crippled old aunt Lucy so adamant about not investigating her own brother's death? Watch and find out.

This is only an hour long, and even though it has no time for character development whatsoever, or even the development of any significant Thin Man style clues to help the audience, it has great atmosphere. It does seem though that the entire cast is running from one room to another as someone screams or someone else is shot dead, so there really is no room for much conversation in the face of all of this activity.

Not bad for what was probably a second feature, and Ann Sheridan stands out among the largely anonymous cast.
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5/10
Not bad for what it is
utgard1419 December 2016
Decent old programmer with a locked door murder mystery and a cast of familiar faces as suspects. A bland detective (Dick Purcell) tries to get to the bottom of things as all the suspects are gathered in the obligatory old dark house. You can figure out the rest. Solid cast includes Ann Sheridan, Ben Welden, William Hopper, and Anne Nagel. "Best name" award goes to Elspeth Dudgeon, who plays the cranky old lady in the wheelchair. My favorite scene comes at the end when Purcell goes to arrest the killer and is ignominiously knocked on his rear end. Also, dig that fireplace with the quote "The end of all good hunting is nearer than you dream" across the front in huge letters. If that had anything to do with anything, I must have missed it. This isn't the type of movie anyone's going to brag about seeing but if you're looking for a breezy whodunnit, you could do a lot worse than this. Short runtime helps a lot.
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4/10
A pretty typical B murder mystery...complete with the usual clichés and mistakes.
MartinHafer19 January 2017
When the film begins, the head of a corporation tells the other board members who are there at his hunting lodge that he knows one of them forged company documents. Not surprisingly, before he can tell who it is, he's found dead in his room with a gun in his hand. It's quickly ruled a suicide--which makes you wonder what these board members told the police*. So it's up to a private dick, Lance O'Leary (Dick Purcell) to determine what really happened. However, soon ANOTHER suicide occurs.

This short murder mystery is just about exactly the same as about 95% of the B-murder mysteries. There are many clichés here. One is the guy who thinks he knows whodunnit--and vows to say something in the morning....only to then be killed! Another is whenever anything important is said, someone unseen just happens to be listening outside the window! It also features the scene with everyone in the room and the killer betrays himself! And, when the dick is attacked near the end...everyone just stands around except for one dopey lady who, naturally, slugs the dick on the head! All in all, as brainless and mind-numbing as a typical mystery with not to distinguish it.

*I checked and apparently testing the body for gunshot residue to determine if a person actually DID kill themselves was not done until the 1970s, so this is not a hole in the story.
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4/10
Weak Cheapie WB "Who Done It?"...Typical Stagy Talky 30's Fodder
LeonLouisRicci17 December 2016
Cheap Looking Undercard from WB is a Stagy "Who Done It?" with some Bad Acting, especially from the Lead, Dick Purcell. With Zero Charisma and Screen Presence, Purcell Plays the Detective in one of those "Gather All the Suspects In a Room" Things that were so Popular in the Thirties.

Ann Sheridan Shines on Screen among the Dullards with Only Elspeth Dudgeon as a Wheel-Chaired Old Auntie having any Spark. The rest of the Cast Mull Around and Read Lines and Look Guilty. There's a Good Performance from a German Shepard who Barks or Howls now and then to keep the Audience Awake.

A Gimmick or Two and the Movie Concludes with Clues Solved in the Claustrophobic Hunting Cabin and Purcell and Sheridan, of course, are Off to the Wedding Chapel. A Requirement from the "Code" after Spending so much Time in the same House After Dark.

Below Average on Every Level.

Note...The Print that TCM ran in Dec. 2016 had a bad soundtrack that fluctuates in volume and is over and under modulated and distorted. Not a pleasant experience. Not sure if the sound deficiency was from the source or the delivery systems.
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2/10
Convoluted and claustrophobic, More Red Herrings than a Red Lobster.
mark.waltz20 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Suicide wasn't quite painless for the elderly patriarch of a greedy family, especially when it appears to have been murder! Suspicions of foul play lead to a reunion of everybody who was there that night, and more "suicides" begin to occur. All the archetypes of this type of melodrama appear including a grumpy wheelchair bound aunt (sister of the first victim who may have motives of her own), greedy and grieving children, sinister servants, a noble nurse and an unwelcome detective whose presence leads to attempts on his own life. Clues are found in the lining of a toupee, the aunt isn't as frail as she pretends to be, and when somebody is caught with their hands in the till, all suspicions point to them.

A young Ann Sheridan plays the nurse of the dowager British character actress Elspeth Dugeon who had moved from bit parts the previous year to an unforgettable performance in the low-budget comedy thriller "Sh! The Octopus!". After years of being an extra, Sheridan had slowly risen to "B" leads but other than a few where she was paired with Pat O'Brien, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney, the material she was given was genuinely weak. Dick Purcell plays her detective pal who obviously wants a bit more. Other than Elspeth Dugeon, the only really interesting performance here is the "Rin-Tin-Tin" type dog who has a fear of rifles and seems to know through his bark who the killer is. This genuinely ranks at the bottom of the rung of Warner Brothers' "B" unit, made difficult to tolerate even at an hour's running time because of the film's slow pacing and stage play like setting.
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4/10
Ann Sheridan fans steer clear! You have been warned!
JohnHowardReid18 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Dick Purcell (Lance O'Leary), Ann Sheridan (Nurse Sarah Keate), Anne Nagel (Gwen Kingery), Ben Welden (Gerald Frawley), Elspeth Dudgeon (Aunt Lucy Kingery), Hugh O'Connell (Newell Morse), Sheila Bromley (Terice Von Elm), Dennie Moore (Annette), Trevor Bardette (Brucker, the chauffeur), Jean Benedict (Helen Page), Anderson Lawlor (Joe Page), William Hopper (Lal Killian), Anthony Averill (Julian Barre), Ertic Stanley (Hubert Kingery), Jack Mower (coroner), Stuart Holmes (jury foreman), Loia Chaney (secretary), John Harron (director).

Director: NOEL SMITH. Screenplay: Stuart L. Lowe, Robertson White. Based on the 1930 novel Mystery of Hunting's End by Mignon G. Eberhart. Photography: L. William O'Connell. Film editor: Frank Magee. Art director: Stanley Fleischer. Gowns: Howard Shoup. Music: Howard Jackson. Dialogue director: John Langan. Sound recording: Leslie G. Hewitt. Producer: Bryan Foy. A First National picture.

Copyright 23 December 1937 by Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Palace: 28 June 1938. U.S. release: 21 May 1938. 56 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: The daughter of a murdered millionaire (who supposedly committed suicide) summons to the family hunting lodge all the people who were there on the fateful occasion.

NOTES: Sixth and final entry in the Sarah Keate series. An odd series for a number of reasons. In Eberhart's novels, Sarah Keate is a middle-aged, spinster nurse. Aline MacMahon was an ideal choice for the role in the first of the series, While the Patient Slept.

For the second movie, however, Sarah was not only made younger but underwent a name change to "Sally Keating". Marguerite Churchill continued this trend in the third film, Murder by an Aristocrat.

Would you believe, in the fourth film, the character reverted to middle age and was played by Jane Darwell? But for the fifth and sixth entries, Sarah/Sally became young again in the person of Ann Sheridan.

COMMENT: A confused and confusing mystery thriller that involves so many characters milling around in such a short space of time, it's virtually impossible to keep track of who's who, unless you see the film twice!

Unfortunately, it's hardly worth a single once-over. Ann Sheridan fans will be most disappointed. Not only does their idol contribute a perfunctory performance, she spends what little footage she has in a dowdy nurse's uniform.

The actual feminine lead is Anne Nagel, but she too seems somewhat bland and colorless. It's left to Elspeth Dudgeon to hold up the distaff end with her Dame May Witty impersonation from "Night Must Fall".

On the male side of the ledger, Dick Purcell makes a tepid hero and Trevor Bardette an unconvincing domestic. Only Ben Welden fitfully shines.

Director Noel Smith does little to earn his pay but keep the jumbled events moving steadily towards the fade-out.
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