starring zasu pitts, james gleason
the crooked circle is distinguished by the fact that it's supposedly the first movie to be shown on television, in 1933, at a time when there probably weren't too many tv owners out there to tune in. there's not really that much else to distinguish this one, except that it brought together zasu pitts and james gleason, who played hildegarde withers and oscar piper in two of the later cinematic adaptations of stuart palmer's fiction.
i wasn't so fond of pitts as miss withers and her role here bordered on downright grating. actually i couldn't quite figure out what relationship she had to anyone else in the movie, given that she spends most of her on-screen time playing that old tried and true (and tedious) character of the scaredy cat who's nearly incoherent with fear. gleason's cop character is not that far removed from his inspector piper, though the brooklynese is a bit thicker and he's lower in the ranks.
as for the plot, it pits the sphinx club, a group of amateur crime solvers, against the crooked circle, who dress in robes and hoods, mutter incantations and have marked the head of the aforementioned club for death.
which is really just an excuse for assorted and sundry parties to gather in an old dark house and trot out all of your favorite old school mystery and old dark house clichés (no guy in an ape suit, though). which is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, at least not for me. i tend to be very forgiving of even the dopiest of the old dark house movies and so i found this one fairly entertaining, in spite of its ineptness.