Angela Lansbury in Please Murder Me! (1956)


(director: Peter Godfrey; screenwriters: story by David Chantler & E.A. Dupont/Donald Hyde/Al C. Ward; cinematographer: Alan Stensvold; editor: Kenneth Crane; music: Albert Glasser; cast: Angela Lansbury (Myra Leeds), Raymond Burr (Attorney Craig Carlson), Dick Foran (Joe Leeds), John Dehner (Dist. Atty. Ray Willis), Lamont Johnson (Carl Holt), Robert Griffin (Lou Kazarian), Denver Pyle (Det. Lt. Bradley), Alex Sharp (Sgt. Hill), Lee Miller (Policeman on witness stand), Russell Thorson (Trial judge); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Donald Hyde; Alpha Video Distributors; 1956)
“More than adequate Poverty Row courtroom drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Peter Godfrey (“The Woman in White”/”The Two Mrs. Carrolls”) helms this more than adequate Poverty Row courtroom drama. It’s based on an original story by David Chantler & E.A. Dupont; the writers are Donald Hyde and Al C. Ward. The film’s implausible gimmick is given away by the title. What makes this programmer satisfying are the solid performances by Raymond Burr and Angela Lansbury.

It opens with hotshot criminal defense attorney Craig Carlson (Raymond Burr) dictating to Ray Willis (John Dehner), the DA, on a tape recorder, in his office late at night. The film goes into flashback over events that took place starting six months ago. Craig recalls how he was a captain in the marines and during the battle on Iwo Jima his top sergeant Joe Leeds (Dick Foran) saved his life. Ever since, they remained best friends. Joe, a wealthy businessman who was the owner of ten supermarkets, two years ago married the unemployed beauty Myra (Angela Lansbury). During that time Myra stopped loving Joe and fell in love with Craig. Six months ago Craig confronts Joe and tells him he wants to marry his wife. Joe doesn’t get angry, but asks for a few days to think it over about granting Myra a divorce. When he confronts Myra, she shoots him and claims she killed him in self-defense. The case goes to court, and in a brilliantly effective dramatic closing argument Craig sways the jury to turn in an innocent verdict. Then Craig learns that the scheming Myra doesn’t love him but used him to beat the murder rap and inherit Joe’s $750,000 estate. When Craig receives a letter from Joe that arrives late, because Joe’s friend Lou (Robert Griffin) forgot to post it, he finds that his best friend intends to give Myra the divorce but warns of her vile nature, that she only married him for his money, that she’s only in love with the struggling artist Carl Holt (Lamont Johnson) and that she’s a no good gold digger who will ruin his life if he falls for her act. That’s when the story comes out of flashback and the despondent, guilt-stricken Craig, who believes his life is ruined, goes through with his far-fetched plan to get even with Myra.