The Lady In Scarlet (1935)

the lady in scarlet 1935

Decent mystery almost tanked by Patricia Farr as a wise cracking secretary to a private investigator. She is absolutely annoying. Her lines are part of the problem but her “acting” gets the lions share of the blame. Who killed the crooked art dealer?

Dr.Boyer buys clocks from art and antiques dealer Arthur Sayre. Arthur thinks his wife Julia is having an affair with him. He calls his lawyer to change his will. Boyer and Julia meet for a drink. Also in the bar is P.I.Oliver Keith (Reginald Denny) and his secretary Ella (Patricia Farr). Keith recognizes Julia as an actress he saw in a show.

She tells them she thinks her husband is in trouble and they follow her home. Albert won’t be troubled anymore. He dead, killed with a sword. He’s also got a dagger through his right hand. Fingerprints lead to F.W.Dyker. He and Albert were in the phony antiques racket together. He’s also a good swordsman.

Albert’s daughter Alice thinks Julia killed him for his money. She also says she was disinherited because of lies Julia fed Albert about her. That afternoon she married Albert’s right hand man in the shop, Arthur Pennyward.

Alice says she heard her father talking with the lawyer Jerome Shelby over the phone. leaving Julia everything. Shelby comes over and reads the will. It’s split between the two women. He was killed before he could sign the new one. Her father promised her a hundred thousand dollars in bonds as a wedding present. They’re in the safe. Julia opens it. Not even a moth. Oliver looks in a bit later and finds a scrap of paper.

Also in the mix is a blackmailer. There’s another murder. Oliver keeps police inspector Lewis Trainey advised of everything. That’s good because he’s not the sharpest member of the force. The solution comes when Oliver gathers all the suspects together.

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A Compelling Case-Michael Underwood (1989) (Rosa Epton Series)

michael underwood-a compelling case

Number eleven in this fifteen book series about solicitor Rosa Epton. The character has been referred to as England’s Perry Mason. Her partner is Robin Snaith. She started out as his clerk. The series started in 1980 with “Crime Upon Crime.” The last published book was “Guilty Conscience” in 1992.

In this one Rosa gets the case of Stephen Lumley from Robin who is too busy to handle it. Lumley has a wife and two young children. He’s broke. He drove a taxi and got into an accident and the insurance company wouldn’t pay up because they said it was his fault. He would go to his Uncle Bernard for money. The last time the two argued and Stephen threatened him when he wouldn’t give him any money.

After a couple months Stephen decides to try again. He goes to his uncle’s jewelry shop. By sheer coincidence two men in disguise walk in. One takes a hammer and smashes a case and starts helping himself. Bernard comes from out of the back and is shot in the shoulder. The thieves run out and so does Stephen. Bernard is convinced Stephen set the whole thing up.

Now he’s waiting in prison for trial. Over the course of six months his wife comes to visit but he doesn’t have much to say to her as he’s gotten very depressed. She says the kids have been told he’s in the hospital. It’s a hard trip to see him and when he’s transferred to a prison even further away his wife’s visits become less and less. Rosa represents him and through it all her maintains his innocence..

Investigations of possible suspects come to nothing and there are no leads as to the men who pulled off the robbery. The prosecution makes a big point of the fact that Stephen ran away from the store. If he was innocent, why didn’t he stick around? To his slight advantage is the fact he didn’t fire the gun and wasn’t wearing a disguise. All in all it still doesn’t look good and Rosa is starting to do what she’s always been warned against, becoming emotionally involved in a case. Rosa has Paul Maxted to defend Stephen. He ends up being sentenced to six years.

Rosa thinks it’s a miscarriage of justice and goes full tilt into investigating the case. She enlists the help of office worker Ben. They find out that a man named Leslie Dingle was fired by Bernard a while back for dishonesty. Things grind to a halt when his strangled body is found in the back seat of a car in a parking lot.

Then a third crime is committed. Do not read the dust jacket as this will spoil this development.The book is another good one from the always reliable Underwood. There are a few things in Rosa’s life that progress but that doesn’t mean the series has to be read in order.

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Party Girl (1930)

party girl 1930

It’s Christmas time. Do businesses really toss wild parties to sign up clients? Who knew?

D.A. Robert Lowry wants to break up the party girl racket. One of his investigators works undercover at Madame Maude Lindsay’s. She supplies babes for the parties. John Rountree owns a glass company and is president of the manufacturer’s association. He refuses to use party girls to sell his products.

His son Jay (Douglas Fairbanks,Jr.) is home for the holidays. His girlfriend is his Dad’s secretary Ellen Powell (Jeanette Loff). Neither one knows she used to work for Lindsay.

That night United Glass is tossing a drunken bash in a hotel. Lindsay supplied the girls. Meanwhile Jay and his frat boys are getting boozed up across town. They decide it would be fun to crash the party. Ellen sits home playing the piano and singing to a picture of Jay and his dog. Her roommate is at the party.

Jay and the boys get tossed out but figure a way to eventually get in. Businessmen away from their wives for a night can get pretty randy. It’s all good business. Jay meets Leeda Carter (Judith Barrie). The next morning Jay wakes up with a hangover and Leeda. A key is heard in the door. Leeda says it’s mother. They come up with a story that they eloped last night. He doesn’t have much choice and marries her. Jay doesn’t know that “mother” is actually Madame Lindsay.

If you think Jay’s Dad isn’t happy, imagine how Ellen feels. She ends up back on the circuit. The cops visit Leeda and tell her she’s off to jail as a state’s witness. They’re going to raid the parties. If she tells all she may not be going downtown. She spills. Too bad. She’s going anyway. She tries to escape through a sixth floor window. Jay finds out about the raids and that Ellen is one of the party girls. Can he rescue her?

Not funny enough to be so bad it’s good. It is interesting for its content and the moral stand the producers try and make while at the same time showing the debauchery of the wild goings on.

This was Judith Barrie’s first movie. She disappeared after only five.

Judith Barrie

Judith Barrie

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Lurid Dreams-Charles L.Harness (1990)

charles l harness-lurid dreams

It all involves a college student who wants to write his thesis based on the paranormal. He has psi talent and he’s able to do astral traveling or have out of body experiences. In order to keep grant money he has to visit Edgar Allan Poe and convince him to take the road to the military rather than literature. It took me a while to get into it but it was worth sticking with and the facts about Poe were very interesting.

William Reynolds is broke.  He’s working on his thesis, “OB’s-History And Techniques.” He survives by working for Professor Loesser who has a grant to look into the wild talents. During one OB Reynolds is supposed to see a number on a piece of paper. Instead he turns it over and sees the number thirteen. Then he floats through the observation room and sees a man in a gray uniform and another who could be Edgar Allan Poe. As far as the number goes, Loesser says he never wrote it. He had a different one on the paper.

The Dean of the Graduate School says he doesn’t believe in the paranormal and pulls Loesser’s grant. He leaves town and that puts William without a source of income.

The man in uniform is Colonel Birch. He belongs to the newly formed group The Confederate States of America. He and the Dean tell William they want him to find out why Poe didn’t choose a military life. He thinks if he did the North would have been defeated at Gettysburg  and thanks to General Poe the South would have won the Civil War. Birch has the money to provide a grant. The Dean, smelling a buck, all of a sudden thinks there may be something to the OB experience. It looks like Poe also had OB experiences.

William’s girlfriend Alix is doing her dissertation on Poe and is an expert on his life. William goes through an OB and meets up with Poe. His whole future depends on a card game and the number thirteen. Poe himself is curious why he chose lit over the army. To try and find out Alix, William and Birch do some over analyzing of everything Poe wrote looking for clues.

William lives in Baltimore so tracking down Poe’s haunts isn’t a problem. He does have to travel to seventh and Spring Garden streets in Philadelphia where Poe lived and wrote for two years. (I’ve been there and it’s not some mysterious dwelling and there’s no feeling of the supernatural when you walk through it).

William also goes to a fantasy Battle of Gettysberg where Poe leads a charge. Still no answers. The research gets more intense and everything seems to be a clue.

It is fun to read about how they keep trying to find the conclusion they want as they go through all of Poe’s works. Every word means something and character names have a hidden meaning and they think it all adds up to a massive autobiography of Poe.

To me it reads like a satire on the road to a PhD and what Grad students have to put with to get their degree.

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Bury Me Dead (1947)

bury me dead 1947

Crime mixed with comedy featuring future TV stars June Lockhart and Hugh Beaumont. A woman pretends to be dead then decides to make a comeback to see who wanted to kill her.

Wealthy Barbara Carlin (June Lockhart) had a habit of grabbing a smoke in her stables before retiring for the night. Looks like she got an early retirement when a fire broke out and a body burned beyond recognition was discovered. Everyone thinks it’s Barbara. Her necklace and compact were found at the scene. Her husband Rod (Mark Daniels) tries to run into the fire but is stopped. Too late for her.

At her funeral Barbara shows up with her face covered by a veil. She gets into her lawyer’s (Hugh Beaumont) car and asks for a lift. Michael Dunn is surprised when she lifts the veil and sees the guest of honor at the funeral. She wants to know who wants her dead. The movie has several flashbacks from here.

Rod is suspect number one. Barbara’s younger sister Rusty (Cathy O’Donnell) finds out at the reading of their father’s will that she gets….nothing. Turns out she was adopted and not legally his daughter. She and Barbara have had their troubles. Rusty lost Rod to her. She also lost prize fighter George to her.

Barbara was concerned when Rusty went to George’s training camp and she and Rod traveled there to get her.  At the camp Rod gets the hots for George’s secretary Helen and George goes for Barbara. Rusty is real bitter. Rod and Barbara are headed for divorce.

George admits that he and Helen plotted to get Barbara’s money. Rod and George get into a fight. It’s the usual speeded up fight scene to make it a light moment. Rod leaves the house after being knocked around and goes to Rusty’s place. She tells him how she’s always felt about him but he says he really loves Barbara. Rusty doesn’t take it well especially when Rod refers to her as a child.  She goes to the cops and accuses Rod of murder. By now everyone knows the body in the barn was Helen.

Back at the house the electricity is cut off and someone hits Barbara. He misses her head and gets her shoulder and runs off. At the police station Rod starts putting things together. Criminologist Mr.Brighten (Charles Lane) won’t shut up about how much he knows about crime as Rod tries to get everyone going back to the house. He’s convinced Barbara will be dead for real if they don’t hurry.

It’s a good suspenseful ending to a movie that would have been a lot better if they had cut back on the comedy. It’s still fun to see the future Ward Cleaver and the star of “Lassie” and later “Lost In Space.”

June Lockhart-Hugh Beaumont

June Lockhart-Hugh Beaumont

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Girl Gang (1954)

girl gang 1954

If you want to see a movie that must have had Ed Wood green with envy, look no further. It’s sex and drugs but no rock and roll since that hasn’t caught on yet. The unintended laughs are plentiful. It’s no surprise that star Timothy Farrell was a favorite of Ed Wood and appeared in a number of his movies.

Two girls are hitchhiking and get picked up by a guy in a great looking Buick convertible. They pull over and the girls give him “the look.” Here comes another car with two girls. They’re all part of a gang. They hit him over the head and grab his wallet and the car.

They drive back to dope dealer Joe’s (Timothy Farrell) place. He’s on the couch with June (Joanne Arnold). He’s going to teach her how to shoot up. Doc lost his license and helps supply Joe. He’s got a needle on him and Joe’s got a spoon. He shows June how to cook and shoot. He advises her to inject the stuff in her thigh where the needle mark won’t be so visible. As she goes off to dreamland the soundtrack provides some harp music.

While she’s on her way Joe takes Jack into the kitchen so he can mainline. He also gets some harp music. He sent out to get some new customers. He brings back innocent kids Bill and Wanda. They get started with some pot….and harp music.

Joe makes out with all the girls. While making nice with Wanda, Bill is passed out in a chair. Time to introduce Wanda to the cellar club. The initiation is to have sex with five boys. One guy is playing some hot piano while everyone just sits around. Finally in what seems forever some of them get up and jitterbugx.  Time for some sex. A couple goes through a door marked Private. A light goes on above it to let everyone know it’s occupied.

Joe gets June a job in Mr.Brown’s real estate office. That’s so she can use her feminine wiles to borrow money to pay Joe for her habit. She gets small amounts then goes for fifty bucks. While she waits in the back room Brown opens the safe, leaves it open and June tires him out. While he’s resting she robs the safe of some money and a gun. He threatens her but she says she’ll yell rape. He gives up.

Later Joe and Doc return the gun and blackmail him into giving up his remaining cash. Now it’s time for Joe to give Bill and Wanda a chance at some big bucks….which they’ll turn over to him for the stuff they need. He plans a gas station robbery with them along with Jack and June.

The robbery scene is so bad it has to be seen. Now the movie gets even worse. There’s even a cat fight where it’s more than obvious the girls are doing their best not to hurt each other.

If you like really bad movies and I mean really bad, don’t miss this one.

Joanne Arnold was Playmate of the month in May 1954.

The girls talk over their next caper

The girls talk over their next caper

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The House Of Peril-Louis Tracy (1922)

Louis Tracy

Louis Tracy

Who killed the high society millionaire? Two police detectives are trying to find out. They may be opposite in appearance like Laurel and Hardy but they make a smart team. They enlist a friend of the deceased to help them out. The detectives appeared in earlier books that take place in London. No explanation how they got to New York. Doesn’t really matter since this is a good one and they are fun characters.

Anthony van Courtland lives in a mansion on upper fifth avenue in New York City. He and twelve friends get together for a night of boozing it up in the mansion. Each one contributed different bottles of liquor to the punch. They call themselves the ACE Club. It was thought that’s because they were all flyers in World War One. Nope. It stands for Alcohol,Chlorform and Ether. This will be their last meeting.

The next morning Benson the butler gets upsets when he discovers his pet goldfish is dead. Then he finds the dead body of Anthony while his twelve friends are passed out at the big table. He goes to get the cops when Anthony’s friend, Captain Alec Stuart is just arriving. Stuart is a member of the American Expeditionary Force of the U.S. Calvary. He and Anthony were supposed to go horseback riding in Central Park.   Police Detective Charles Furneaux shows up. He gives a new meaning to the word irritating.

He tells Stuart to inform Anthony’s fiance Mary Dixon of the death. Stuart tells her and she doesn’t break down and inquires about her brother Willie who was one of the guests. Furneaux is about to take everybody to the station but lets Willie go. Looks like he and Stuart will become pals. That’s just fine with Furnneaux and his partner Chief Detective Winter. They want Stuart to find out all he can about the Dixon family.

Anthony received a threatening note the day before. Someone doesn’t want him marrying Mary. The marriage looks like part of a business deal in which Anthony saved Mary’s father a lot of money and grief. Marie’s not too thrilled with the matchup.

The night of the murder a hobo in Central Park saw someone toss something out of Anthony’s window. It was a bottle and a ring. The ring has a lion on it. Out of its paws comes needles that were tipped with poison. It cost the life of a police detective when he handled it. It’s also what killed Anthony.

Then Marie and her father head for their summer retreat in the Adirondacks. Winter and Furneaux tell Stuart to go there with Willie. Furneaux will be there in disguise along with Winter. Two of the twelve guests will also show up. They both want to marry Marie. The detectives are sure one of them is the murderer. Stuart is falling for Marie but is too shy to say anything to her.

This is a fun mystery. If you spot it at a Library sale or similar event it’s worth picking up.

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