PHANTOM OF CRESTWOOD, THE
(director/writer: J. Walter Ruben; screenwriters: from a story by Bartlett Cormack & J. Walter Ruben/Bartlett Cormack; cinematographer: Henry Gerrard; editor: Archie F. Marshek; music: Max Steiner; cast: Ricardo Cortez (Gary Curtis), Karen Morley (Jenny Wren), Anita Louise (Esther Wren), Tom Douglas (Allen Herrick), Richard “Skeets” Gallagher (Eddie Mack), H.B. Warner (Priam Andes), Sam Hardy (Pete Harris), Pauline Fredericks (Faith Andes), Eddy Sturgis (Bright Eyes), Gavin Gordon (Will Jones), Robert McWade (Herbert Walcott), Ivan Simpson (Mr. Vayne, Henry T. Herrick), Matty Kemp (Frank Andes), Hilda Vaughn (Carter), George E. Stone (The Cat), Mary Duncan (Dorothy Mears), Aileen Pringle (Mrs. Walcott), Eddie Sturgiss (Bright Eyes); Runtime: 76 ; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Merian C. Cooper/David O. Selznick; RKO; 1933-B/W)
“A routine crime drama B film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
J. Walter Ruben (“Old Hutch”/”Riffraff “) directs in the usual formulaic style for such a routine crime drama B film. It’s based on a story Ruben wrote with Bartlett Cormack. They both co-wrote the screenplay.
Jenny Wren (Karen Morley) is an attractive gold digger who comes from New York to Los Angeles to blackmail her former lovers. She tells the wealthy bank president Priam Andes (H.B. Warner) to invite three of his unscrupulous wealthy friends –William Jones (Gavin Gordon), Senator Herbert Walcott (Robert McWade) and Eddie Mack (Richard “Skeets” Gallagher)–to a weekend party at “Crestwood,” where his esteemed family seaside ranch called La Casa de Andes is located. At the party, the feisty Jenny confronts in public her former lovers in front of their wives and Jones’ fiancé, but in private meets with the boys in the library to ask for considerable “hush” money not to embarrass them in public as she plans to retire to Europe and needs the money to live in comfort for the rest of her life. The ticked off men think of killing her.
Jenny was pursued recently back east by a naive college student, Tom Herrick (Tom Douglas), who jumped to his death in the Adirondacks after she ruthlessly rejected him because his rich family won’t give him money until he’s older. The suicide shook her up and made her get out of the hustling mistress business.
Gary Curtis (Ricardo Cortez) has been hired by Jenny’s current lover to be a private detective and follow her to LA and to steal any letters Priam may have written her. So even though it’s a stormy night, Curtis and his criminal gang (Sam Hardy & George E. Stone) are hanging around in the woods outside the estate unnoticed, snooping around.
Also visiting is Priam’s jolly nephew Frank (Matty Kemp), who brings along Jenny’s younger sister, Esther (Anita Louise), whom he wants to marry. But the meanie, his Aunt Faith (Pauline Fredericks), Priam’s prudish unmarried sister, feels Esther is not good enough to marry into the established California family and is refusing to approve the marriage.
The mystery guest calls himself Mr. Vayne, but is really Tom’s distraught father (Ivan Simpson), who wants to get some revenge for his son’s suicide and puts on a death mask of his son’s face to scare Jenny during the night.
The sleep-in maid Carter (Hilda Vaughn), who seems to know everything about the family, is officious but always has a sour face.
When Esther visits the bedroom of her sister to talk about her marriage, she’s followed by an unseen person who kills Jenny with a thrown dart. The family calls the state troopers, but because of the storm the roads are impassable. That’s when Curtis comes into the house and tells the guests he intends to solve the murder before the police arrive, as he fears that because his gang has criminal records the police will blame them for the murder rather than any of the respectable people from Crestwood.
REVIEWED ON 1/21/2021 GRADE: C+