(director: Lambert Hillyer; screenwriter: Robert Quigley; cinematographer: John Stumar; editor: Otto Meyer; cast:  Ralph Bellamy (Police Inspector Steve Trent), June Collyer (Janet Holt), Claude Gillingwater (John Fry), Bradley Page (Howard B. Smith), George Cooper (Stubby), William Jeffrey (Edward Arnold), Betty Bythe (Mavis Fry), Otto Yanaoka (Kono), Arthur Pierson (Dr. David R. Marsh), Edward LeSaint (Graham, banker), Fred ‘Snowflake’ Toones (Taxi Driver),  Joseph Crehan (Frank Flynn, Police Captain); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; Columbia; 1933-B/W)

“Solid old-fashioned whodunit murder story.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

B-film director Lambert Hillyer (“Dracula’s Daughter”/”The Invisible Ray”) flawlessly directs this solid old-fashioned whodunit murder story. It’s a programmer in black and white, that is told formulaic like as an ‘old dark house’ mystery. It’s tautly written by Robert Quigley. Though only an average film, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

At the NYC police station’s detective bureau, Captain Frank Flynn (Joseph Crehan) tells an ambitious detective asking for a promotion after an arrest about the tricky murder case solved by the celebrated Police Inspector Steve Trent (Ralph Bellamy) in upstate NY some time ago.

Hotshot Inspector Steve Trent, from NYC, arrives on a rainy night by taxi at the Arnold mansion in Forest Lake, in upstate New York, to speak with the millionaire Edward Arnold (William Jeffrey), who fears he is about to be killed due to a family curse and requested to speak with the famous detective about protecting him. Arnold’s grandfather was killed by this curse when the family’s grandfather clock stopped before midnight. Arnold fears dying in the same manner.

The prophesy soon comes true that night, as Arnold dies with the fresh blood of the vic by the fireplace in the library where the murder occurred. Arnold’s personal physician Dr. Marsh (Arthur Pierson) says it’s a heart attack while Trent says he was poisoned. The coroner’s report backs Trent. The detective has a house full of suspects that he questions in the house. They are: Janet Holt (June Collyer), the guardian Arnold adopted because he was fond of her deceased mother and is the person who will inherit Arnold’s vast fortune. Janet’s boyfriend doctor, who was not approved of by Arnold or John Fry (Claude Gillingwater) the loyal secretary and Arnold’s best friend. The doctor is a main suspect because he gave Arnold regular shots for his weak heart, and Trent believes the poison was administered through an injection but was delivered by a different instrument he’s not aware of. Fry’s awful wife Mavis (Betty Bythe), who doesn’t love him, comes here three weeks ago from China to get a check from Arnold for $5,000, and is about to leave but now must remain until the murder is solved. Other suspects include the university educated Japanese houseboy Kono (Otto Yanaoka), who lights the incense Buddha on evenings and fails to answer Trent’s questions honestly, and the troubled town banker Graham (Edward LeSaint), in whose struggling bank Arnold has a big account and if he withdraws his account it’s likely the bank won’t survive.

We learn that Arnold made his fortune in China (but not in what), and spent 35 years there before he returns home a year ago. Arnold and Fry were friends in China where Fry got him treated right when he came down with yellow fever and was dying. As pay back, Fry was retained to help Arnold write his book on his China adventure.

When Arnold’s shyster lawyer, Smith (Bradley Page), sneaks into the house to steal his client’s diary, stored in his safe, and Kono is killed before he can tell Trent who the killer is. It then takes Trent the use of his wits to figure out the motive before he can solve such an enigmatic case, that comes with a serious plot twist.

Before Midnight Poster

REVIEWED ON 2/14/2021  GRADE:  B