Tag Archives: Monogram Pictures

The Thirteenth Guest (1932, Albert Ray)

The Thirteenth Guest has a lot of problems, but its biggest failing is Frances Hyland’s script. Hyland doesn’t just have a lot of logic problems, he also has a bunch of lousy humor. There’s Paul Hurst’s moronic police detective, who Hyland relies on for Guest‘s version of comic relief. Hurst whines a lot and annoys J. Farrell MacDonald, who should be a lot better as his superior. Why isn’t MacDonald better? Because Hyland writes in a bunch of jokes about MacDonald being upset about eccentric wealthy people.

But the dumbest part of Hyland’s script has to be protagonist Lyle Talbot’s passionate anti-murder position. He just can’t stand murder… as opposed to being pro-murder. But Hyland also decides to make the dapper Talbot a reluctant genius detective. So, while Talbot can’t stand murder, he apparently can’t stand having to solve murder cases even more.

Still, Talbot gives a strong performance and, at times, he nearly makes Guest worthwhile. There are some other good supporting performances from James Eagles and Frances Rich. In the other lead role, Ginger Rogers is somewhat ineffective. She’s a lot better in her first scene than she is in the rest of the picture.

Ray’s direction isn’t bad, but Leete Renick Brown’s editing is terrible. The low budget hurts Guest quite a bit. Ray isn’t able to establish any settings. It all looks too cheap in daylight.

Guest should have a compelling narrative, but the budget keeps those involved from taking advantage of it.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Ray; screenplay by Frances Hyland, based on the novel by Armitage Trail; directors of photography, Tom Galligan and Harry Neumann; edited by Leete Renick Brown; produced by M.H. Hoffman; released by Monogram Pictures.

Starring Lyle Talbot (Phil Winston), Ginger Rogers (Marie Morgan), J. Farrell MacDonald (Police Capt. Ryan), Paul Hurst (Detective Grump), Erville Alderson (Uncle John Adams), Ethel Wales (Aunt Jane Thornton), James Eagles (Harold ‘Bud’ Morgan), Crauford Kent (Dr. Sherwood), Eddie Phillips (Thor Jensen), Frances Rich (Marjorie Thornton) and Phillips Smalley (Uncle Dick Thornton).


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The Mystery Man (1935, Ray McCarey)

I hope Robert Armstrong got paid well for The Mystery Man, because it doesn’t do him any other good. While it’s nice to see Armstrong in a lead role, the film’s so incompetently produced, it’s sometimes painful. Armstrong acts well but director McCarey doesn’t know how to compose shots. You’ll get what should be a close-up as a medium shot. Of course, the script’s bad too so Armstrong’s working against it too.

The plot isn’t terrible—Armstrong’s a newspaper reporter with more ego than sense who finds himself broke after a week-long bender. He meets Maxine Doyle, who’s in similar financial straits. The problem with the film is mostly Doyle. If she were any good, the film might be charming, regardless of technical merits and writing. But she’s awful—just painfully bad.

But so’s the rest of the supporting cast. Armstrong’s sidekicks, played by James P. Burtis, Monte Collins and Sam Lufkin, all awful. His bosses—Henry Kolker and James Burke—awful. Guy Usher turns in the closest thing to a decent performance, but he’s not good by any stretch.

Meanwhile, there’s Armstrong moving through these inept actors, trying to do what he can with the bad dialogue, on the incredibly cheap sets (the hotel suite appears to be the newspaper editor’s office too, based on the wall design)… and he maintains some dignity.

The concept isn’t bad; it could have been a good leading man vehicle for Armstrong… instead of an unfortunate, disappointing entry in his filmography.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ray McCarey; screenplay by John W. Krafft and Rollo Lloyd, based on a story by Tate Finn and an adaptation by William A. Johnston; director of photography, Harry Neumann; edited by Carl Pierson; released by Monogram Pictures.

Starring Robert Armstrong (Larry Doyle), Maxine Doyle (Anne Ogilvie), Henry Kolker (Jo-Jo), LeRoy Mason (The Eel), James Burke (Managing Editor Marvin), Guy Usher (District Attorney Johnson), James P. Burtis (Whalen), Monte Collins (Dunn), Sam Lufkin (Weeks), Otto Fries (Nate), Norman Houston (T. Fulton Whistler), Dell Henderson (Mr. Clark), Lee Shumway (Plainclothes Man) and Sam Flint (Jerome Roberts).


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The Ape (1940, William Nigh)

I always forget awful films have always been made; I usually establish some arbitrary point in the mid-fifties when they started getting unwatchable. Then something like The Ape comes along and reminds me I need to set that point earlier.

The film’s based on a play, which must be a hoot considering how many different locations it moves from. Nigh loves to intercut one sequence with a glimpse of another, a technique he probably came up with for the film, but who knows… All of those intercuts are awful and jarring, much like the rest of Nigh’s direction. When he does manage to compose a mediocre shot it’s startling, because the rest of The Ape looks so bad, just looking normal is too much for it.

The story seems absurd, but I’m sure there are other low budget films with a similar one. A mad doctor lives in an otherwise innocent little town. They use a Western set for some of it, which fits since the sheriff (Henry Hall) walks around dressed up like a cowboy. The mad doctor-played by a terrible Boris Karloff, who’s almost unrecognizable due to a goofy hair style-thinks he’s found the cure for paralysis and he’s going to do anything to make sure he succeeds.

Anyway, the script’s awful. The dialogue sinks over and over. Especially with otherwise earnest young lovers Maris Wrixon and Gene O’Donnell.

The Ape stinks. One might feel bad for Karloff, but he’s so absent charm, it’s unlikely.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by William Nigh; screenplay by Curt Siodmak and Richard Carroll, based on an adaptation by Siodmak and a play by Adam Shirk; director of photography, Harry Neumann; edited by Russell F. Schoengarth; music by Edward J. Kay; released by Monogram Pictures.

Starring Boris Karloff (Dr. Bernard Adrian), Maris Wrixon (Miss Frances Clifford), Gene O’Donnell (Danny Foster), Dorothy Vaughan (Mother Clifford), Gertrude Hoffman (Jane), Henry Hall (Sheriff Jeff Halliday) and Selmer Jackson (Dr. McNulty).


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Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943, William Beaudine)

About two minutes after I finished watching Mystery of the 13th Guest, I realized no one ever solves the titular mystery. There’s a mysterious thirteenth guest in the first scene; the guest is absent and his or her identity is never revealed. Tim Ryan’s police lieutenant is supposed to be sort of dumb (but smarter than his hilarious, completely moronic–and narcoleptic–sidekick Frank Faylen), but Dick Purcell’s private investigator is supposed to walk on water and he never mentions it either.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film where the title introduces a mystery totally unrelated to the film’s actual plot. 13th Guest‘s mystery is a relatively simple one–which family member is killing off the other family members to get an inheritance. Nothing to do with the missing thirteenth guest.

The mystery itself isn’t bad, but the plot is idiotic. Ryan and Purcell discover the murderer’s method of electrocuting his victims and they leave it set up because they’re too busy. They also don’t tell anyone.

It doesn’t help Purcell’s just terrible. Ryan’s not very good, but he’s competent. Purcell makes the film a chore to get through–the necessity of a solid character investigating a mystery is now clear to me.

Beaudine is an inoffensive director. He doesn’t bring anything to the film but doesn’t take anything away. Unfortunately, that description also broadly applies to the film. Damsel in distress Helen Parrish, for example, is genially useless.

The best performances are Lloyd Ingraham and Jacqueline Dalya in very small roles.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by William Beaudine; screenplay by Tim Ryan, Charles R. Marion and Arthur Hoerl, based on a novel by Armitage Trail; director of photography, Mack Stengler; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by Lindsley Parsons; released by Monogram Pictures.

Starring Dick Purcell (Johnny Smith), Helen Parrish (Marie Morgan), Tim Ryan (Police Lt. Burke), Frank Faylen (Speed Dugan), Johnny Duncan (Harold Morgan), Jon Dawson (Tom Jackson), Paul McVey (Adam Morgan), Jacqueline Dalya (Marjory Morgan), Cyril Ring (Barksdale) and Addison Richards (Jim, District Attorney).


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