Based on a short story by Anthony Abbott featuring his series characters New York Police Commissioner Thatcher Colt and his assistant Tony Abbott. It’s a rare starring role for character actor Byron Foulger as a wig maker who may be a murderer.
Wig maker Everett Digberry (Byron Foulger) is caught climbing over a cemetery wall. He says he received a letter demanding he leave a thousand dollars on his Aunt Katie’s tombstone. It’s signed the Black Panther complete with a claw mark.
In Police Commissioner Colt’s (Sidney Blackmer) office are five members of the New York opera Company who received similar letters. Digberry makes wigs for them. They all think fired baritone Enrico Lombardi may have something to do with it.
Opera star Nina Politza is leaving for South America. Barging into her apartment is Enrico. He says if he can’t have her no one can. Digberry is there and Enrico roughs him up before leaving.
Digberry’s wife and five daughters are out of town and he’s staying in a small apartment in the city across the hall from Nina. The police drop by to get his bank book showing the thousand dollar withdrawal. They see footprints from a cat that look just like the claw mark on the letters. His typewriter is the same one the letters were written on.
Turns out he wrote the letters to cover up the thousand dollar withdrawal because he’s afraid of his wife. He lent it to Nina and didn’t want her to know. The cops go to Digberry’s neighbor’s apartment and discover a dead body. They take a grey wig off of it. It’s Nina. She was shot in the head.
A piece of a wig found in Nina’s hand is traced to Dingberry’s business rival Wilkins. He says he made one for a man named Frank Galloway. Colt finds out Galloway is a fake name and the address he gave Wilkins is also a phony.
The D.A. wants Dingberry arrested for the murder. He says he needs a conviction in the case if he wants to stay in office. The evidence keeps mounting against Dingberry but Colt thinks he’s innocent. He makes a bet with the D.A. that he can prove it.
Dingberry is told to be in the Commissioner’s office the next day. Wilkins will be there and may be able to identify who he made the wig for. That night Wilkins is murdered
I’m a fan of the book series so I enjoyed this movie and as a fan of character actors and actresses it was interesting to see Foulger in the lead.