(director: Noel M. Smith; screenwriters: Robert E. Kent/based on the novel by Burton E. Stevenson/the play In The Next Room by Harriet Ford and Eleanor Robeson Belmont; cinematographer: Ted McCord; editor: Thomas Pratt; music: Bernhard Kaun; cast: William Lundigan (Jim Moore), Maris Rixon (Sandy Vantine), Eddie Foy Jr. (Tripod Daniels), Paul Cavanagh (Max Armand), Charles D. Waldron (Paul Vantine), Ernie Stanton (Colonel Piggott), Luli Deste (Madame de Charriere), Leyland Hodgson (Parks), Cyril Thornton (George Rogers), Phyllis Barry (Julia), Joseph Crehan (Inspector Grady), Emory Parnell (Det. Simmonds), Phyllis Barry (Julia), Louis Natheaux (Theophile Daurelle), Cliff Saum (Morel); Runtime: 60; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Jacobs; Warner Bros.; 1941-B/W)

The talky crime film plays like a Perry Mason TV episode.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It packs a lot of story into an hour programmer. The talky crime film plays like a Perry Mason TV episode. Director Noel M. Smith (“Burma Convoy”/”Gang Busters”) handles it in a workmanlike way. The script by Robert E. Kent is adequate. It’s based on the 1923 play In The Next Room by Harriet Ford and Eleanor Robeson Belmont. The play is based on the novel by Burton E. Stevenson.

The wealthy Park Avenue residing Americans, Sandy Vantine (Maris Rixon) and her uncle, Paul Vantine (Charles D. Waldron), return by boat from Europe after purchasing on the cheap in Paris a priceless antique Buhl cabinet. Paul believes it’s not the original but a copy made by the master forger called the Black Parrot and will also become valuable one day because of the criminal’s reputation. When it turns out to be the priceless original, he’s shocked.

During the voyage home the reporter from a New York newspaper, Jim Moore (William Lundigan), on assignment with photographer Tripod Daniels (Eddie Foy Jr.), has found the time to court Sandy and plans on marrying her if he can get her guardian uncle’s permission. Jim is also searching for a good story and is interested in writing about the notorious Black Parrot.

Also present on the boat is Colonel Piggott (Ernie Stanton), a Scotland Yard inspector who is working on the Black Parrot case and his presence would indicate the criminal is aboard. Another passenger is Max Amand (Paul Cavanagh),  the son of the firm’s boss that sold the chest to Paul.

When back in NYC, the chest is kept locked in the library of Paul’s residence after there was an attempt to steal it while it was crossing the Atlantic.

The mystery heightens when Paul and a mysterious Frenchman, Daurelle (Louis Natheaux), unknown to Paul, are murdered in Paul’s library. Also stopping by for a visit to Paul is the French Dutchess, Madame de Charriere (Luli Deste), the real owner of the cabinet, who is going through a bitter divorce and is miffed her husband sold the chest without her permission. She wants the chest back to retrieve her scented love letters kept in a secret drawer, that if the wrong party got them she could possibly be blackmailed. Another person making an appearance at Uncle Paul’s residence is Madame de Charriere’s harried maid Julia (Phyllis Barry), who wishes to see the chest for her own nefarious reasons. But Paul’s butler, Rogers (Cyril Thornton), who lets her in, seems to know her and is annoyed she wants to see Paul.

NYC detectives, Inspector Grady (Joseph Crehan) and Detective Simmonds, are called in to investigate the attempts to steal the chest and end up searching for who killed the two men by poisoning them with acid after inflicting  two small parrot scratch marks on them. The detectives call in Colonel Piggott for help.

By the time we learn there’s a second secret drawer and it contains valuable diamonds, I grew bored with the whole thing and found the attempt of the lovebirds to play detective not particularly interesting or believable.

REVIEWED ON 6/26/2020  GRADE: C+