Tag Archives: Margaret Lindsay

British Intelligence (1940, Terry O. Morse)

It should be obvious British Intelligence is based on a play, so much of it takes place in a single house, but director Morse and screenwriter Lee Katz open it up enough it never does. Actually, even though it’s a low budget picture, their expansive approach even obscures the concentration around the one setting.

Intelligence is an early World War II propaganda picture; even though it’s set during World War I, all the ramblings from the Germans or against them are clearly about Hitler. Sometimes Morse can make it work, other times not.

Most of the film is Boris Karloff and Margaret Lindsay conspiring against the English. They’re German spies thrown together and mildly distrustful of each other–whenever Intelligence runs out of scenes, another double agent is revealed to perturb the plot a little.

Karloff is fantastic. Lindsay’s performance, however, is a wee broad. She concentrates on likable instead of believable and has conflicting chemistry with a couple male costars. Sure, Intelligence has to confuse to keep the viewer guessing but it shouldn’t be at the expense of an actor.

Almost no one else in the cast makes an impression. Bruce Lester pops up at the beginning and end to romance Lindsay–Intelligence even starts with him as the protagonist, the shift being a big reason it never feels like a play adaptation–and he’s weak. Holmes Herbert is good though.

Morse and his crew do all right considering they’re cutting in recycled war footage.

Intelligence‘s watchable but disposable.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Terry O. Morse; screenplay by Lee Katz, based on a play by Anthony Paul Kelly; director of photography, Sidney Hickox; edited by Thomas Pratt; music by Heinz Roemheld; produced by Bryan Foy; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Margaret Lindsay (Helene von Lorbeer), Boris Karloff (Valdar), Holmes Herbert (Arthur Bennett), Leonard Mudie (James Yeats), Bruce Lester (Frank Bennett), Lester Matthews (Henry Thompson), Winifred Harris (Mrs. Maude Bennett), Austin Fairman (George Bennett), Louise Brien (Miss Risdon) and Clarence Derwent (The milkman).


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Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring (1941, James P. Hogan)

Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring‘s title confuses me for a couple reasons. First, Ralph Bellamy’s Ellery Queen disappears for long stretches of the seventy-minute runtime. When he does show up, he usually makes a mistake or overlooks something, then someone else comes in and gets the investigation back on track. Second is the Murder Ring. There isn’t one in the movie. Not in either obvious usage of the word “ring.”

Most of Murder Ring takes place at a hospital–wait a second, they never solve the inciting mystery in the film. It gets so confused, everyone (including the viewer, hopefully) forgets.

Anyway, most of the picture involves two bumbling crooks, played by Paul Hurst and Tom Dugan, trying to escape from the hospital. They’re worried they’re murder suspects, so they assault cops, kidnap girls and so on to escape and prove their innocence.

Did I mention Murder Ring is really dumb?

The hospital hijinks probably take more than a third of the runtime–maybe forty minutes of it–and then the case gets solved in the last fifteen. Bellamy doesn’t do much solving. His assistant, an appealing Margaret Lindsay does most of the work… even though she’s not much brighter than Bellamy. They do have decent chemistry though.

Mona Barrie and James Burke give the best supporting performances. Hurst’s W.C. Fields impression gets tiresome.

Hogan’s direction is adequate, but Dwight Caldwell’s editing is awful.

It’s probably most useful as an example of why whodunits shouldn’t be slapstick.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by James P. Hogan; screenplay by Eric Taylor and Gertrude Purcell, based on a story by Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee; director of photography, James S. Brown Jr.; edited by Dwight Caldwell; music by Zee Zahler; produced by Larry Darmour; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Ralph Bellamy (Ellery Queen), Margaret Lindsay (Nikki Porter), Charley Grapewin (Insp. Queen), Mona Barrie (Nurse Marian Tracy), Paul Hurst (Page), James Burke (Sgt. Velie), Leon Ames (John Stack), George Zucco (Dr. Edwin L. Jannery), Blanche Yurka (Mrs. Augusta Stack), Charlotte Wynters (Miss Fox), Tom Dugan (Lou Thomas), Olin Howland (Dr. Williams), Dennis Moore (Dr. Dunn), Jean Fenwick (Alice Stack) and Pierre Watkin (Crothers).


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Private Detective 62 (1933, Michael Curtiz)

Private Detective 62 is not much of a mystery. Except perhaps the title, which has nothing to do with the film so far as I could tell. Instead, it’s an interesting drama taking place at a detective agency. William Powell plays a diplomatic agent who gets busted by the French while on assignment and gets fired, so he has to find a job. Five minutes later–and a lot of looking in a nice montage–and he’s a private detective. Except the agency owner oscillates between dumb and evil, making things interesting for Powell, who’s trying to run a helpful detective agency… not one trapping wives in precarious situations to help their husbands divorce.

It’s no surprise Powell’s good–the story moves around quite a bit in the first act, giving him more to do than be a moral detective–or Michael Curtiz. Curtiz doesn’t have many jaw-dropping sequences in this one (he had such sequences in the early 1930s, including one in a Philo Vance starring Powell), but he does an excellent job throughout. Unfortunately, Curtiz’s excitement behind the camera isn’t matched by the screenplay, which is disinterested in itself.

Arthur Hohl is pretty good as the villain, James Bell is better as his stooge. Margaret Lindsay is a fine romantic interest for Powell, even if her character gets stupid at times and it’s absolutely unbelievable she ever would.

The film’s not particularly involving–at one point I realized I didn’t even care if Lindsay and Powell got together at the end–but Powell’s performance carries it and it’s really well made by Curtiz.

It’s also very interesting as a social document–the film deals both with the Depression (one prospective employer tells Powell he should have stayed in Europe) and Prohibition. Very interesting to see how people talked about the issues contemporaneously–has got to be the first time I’ve used that word.

The location shooting–not sure if it was on the lot, IMDb reveals no information–is excellent as well. On the technical side, however, there may have been some significant editing defects.

But still… a fine way to spend sixty-seven minutes.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Curtiz; screenplay by Rian James, based on a story by Raoul Whitfield; director of photography, Tony Gaudio; edited by Harold McLernon; released by Warner Bros.

Starring William Powell (Don Free), Margaret Lindsay (Janet Reynolds), Ruth Donnelly (Amy Moran), Gordon Westcott (Tony Bandor), Arthur Hohl (Dan Hogan), Natalie Moorhead (Mrs. Helen Burns), James Bell (Whitey) and Hobart Cavanaugh (Harcourt S. Burns).


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