NIGHT OF TERROR (1933 US) D: BENJAMIN STOLOFF W: WILLIAM JACOBS/BEATRICE VAN P: BRYAN FOY (uncredited)
As early as 1933 the conventions of the Old Dark House mystery had become so familiar that contrived convolutions were not uncommon to the genre. This 64 min. b/w Columbia release is a good example, and despite a poor reputation, is quite good loopy fun. A maniac (Edwin Maxwell under ugly lumpen-face make-up, but apparently someone else in longshots) is killing people, and leaving newspaper clippings of his crimes on their corpses. He has started operating around the Rinehart estate. Meanwhile one of the Rineharts (George Meeker) is a scientist ignoring his cute fiancee (Sally Blane), and working on a new serum that will allow the human body to live without oxygen. He plans to prove his theory by being buried alive in a casket in the estate grounds! Bela Lugosi is the main suspect Swami butler/assistant Degar(complete with turban, earring and "oriental cigarettes") when more killings occur, and a will becomes a cause for concern. Sika (Mary Frey) goes into trances and is killed during a seance. Wallace Ford is quite amusing as the wisecracking reporter hero making time with Blane. Matt McHugh leads the bonehead cops. Oscar Smith (a very poor actor) is stuck with the demeaning comic-relief scaredy-cat black chauffeur role. With Bryant Washburn, Tully Marshall, Gertrude Michaels, Pat Harmon, Otto Hoffman, Eric Mayne, Dave O'Brien, Richard Powell and Emma Tansey. At the end the maniac addresses the audience, warning you not to reveal the surprise ending. It's all based on Broadway veteran Willard Mack's story The Public Be Damned.

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