Sunday, October 27, 2013

one frightened night - 1935

one frightened night
based on a story by stuart palmer

wait a minute, philo vance. i'm going with you.
(the great luvalle, to sheriff jenks)

it was a dark and stormy night. really. more about that in a moment.

i still haven't gotten around to reading any of stuart palmer's fiction but i've reviewed a number of the films adapted from that fiction, specifically the ones starring the spinster detective, hildegarde withers. further research shows that palmer had his hand in a number of other film projects over the years, either adaptions of his stories or direct contributions to screenplays.

palmer is credited with providing the story for one frightened night, but whether it's an original story penned for the movie or an adaptation of something else he wrote is unclear. the movie came out in 1935, the same year that saw the release of murder on a honeymoon, the third of the withers adaptations.

it is upon a dark and stormy night that the wealthy mr. jasper whyte gathers a gang of relatives and others to his creaky old mansion. never mind that the storm seems only to show itself at very random intervals and usually only between scenes. let's not nitpick. in the absence of his estranged and long-lost granddaughter, whyte has decided to give away his millions to all of those assembled, just in time to beat out a new inheritance tax that goes into effect at midnight. so much for planning ahead.

well, wouldn't you know it, just about the time that whyte is breaking the good news to the group, a young woman turns up, claiming to be said granddaughter. if that wasn't coincidence enough for you, here comes yet another young woman (and her magician companion) who also claims to be the granddaughter.

i won't say too much more about the plot, except to say that not everyone survives the night. the whodunit elements here are nothing spectacular but i found this one to be quite entertaining nonetheless. it's as much "old dark house" as whodunit, with all of the action taking place in and around the mansion. and while a number of the characters are quite bland, whyte and the great luvalle (the magician) are interesting enough to save the day. fans of the lone wolf movies, of which i've reviewed quite a few, will recognize fred kelsey (sheriff jenks), who played a detective in a number of installments of that series.