(director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: from the novel “A Shilling for Candles” by Josephine Tey/Charles Bennett/Edwin Greenwood/Alma Reville/Gerald Savory; cinematographer: Bernard Knowles; editor: Charles Frend; music: Louis Levy; cast: Nova Pilbeam (Erica Burgoyne), Derrick de Marney (Robert Tisdall), Percy Marmont (Col. Burgoyne), Edward Rigby (Old Will), Mary Clare (Erica’s Aunt), John Longden (Insp. Kent), Basil Radford (Erica’s Uncle), George Curzon (Guy), Pamela Carne (Christine Clay), J.H. Roberts (Henry Briggs, Solicitor); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edward Black; Janus; 1937-UK)

An unassuming chase thriller by the youngish though not quite so innocent Alfred Hitchcock.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An unassuming chase thriller by the youngish though not quite so innocent Alfred Hitchcock (who repeated once again his favorite theme of an innocent man being chased by the police while he tries to find the guilty party with the help of a woman), that’s highly entertaining but eclipsed by the filmmaker’s The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. Because of the no-name and uncharismatic leads, this marvelous though minor Hitchcock thriller unfairly never received enough credit. A team of writers base it on the novel “A Shilling for Candles” by Josephine Tey. It had two unforgettable virtuoso scenes: the children’s party and the concluding one at the Grand Hotel where the mystery gets wrapped up.

The film opens to a hubby and wife having a bitter spat, where he tells his former actress wife Christine Clay that he’ll never grant her a divorce and that she’s not only an adulterer with young boys but a liar. In the next scene Christine’s dead body is found by Robert Tisdall (Derrick De Marney) on the beach (with a flock of gulls circling overhead) and the shaken man runs to get a policeman. But he’s spotted by two women, who say he was running away from the crime scene. The police discover the vic didn’t drown but was strangled by the belt from a raincoat, which turns out to be Bob’s coat. He claims the missing coat was stolen when he stayed at Tom’s Hat shelter. The police in this small village do not believe him and are ready to bring him to trial when they also discover Christine left him £1200 in her will. This causes Bob to faint, since the news is a shock because he hardly knew Christine and met her only a couple of times when he sold her a story she used in a movie.

When the impoverished Bob meets with his court-appointed attorney Briggs, he realizes what a bumbler he is and that he doesn’t have much of a chance of getting exonerated with him as solicitor. So he steals the lawyer’s glasses and flees the court building unrecognized. Chased by the police, he encounters the chief constable’s pretty young daughter Erica Burgoyne (Nova Pilbeam) stuck in a country road in a car without petrol. He gives her a push to the nearest gas station and tries to convince her of his innocence. She leaves him at an abandoned mill and returns to her father’s house, but doesn’t mention she knows where the escapee is hiding. Instead she brings nice guy Bob a meal the next day and to avoid any suspicion that she’s missing she goes to her aunt’s house, which is near the shelter where Bob says his raincoat was stolen and where he wants to begin his investigation. But Erica doesn’t realize her aunt’s daughter is having a birthday party and the two get trapped into mingling with the children and try to answer the nosy auntie’s piercing questions about their relationship. They only escape the party when Erica’s uncle (Basil Radford) induces his wife (Mary Clare) to play Blind Man’s Bluff. But the suspicious aunt, not satisfied with the answers, calls Erica’s father, the chief constable (Percy Marmont), and he calls ahead to a nearby police station to have his daughter call him. But Bob is recognized and from hereon the police are searching for both. It’ll eventually lead to an old bum (Edward Rigby) taking them to a hotel (discovered because of a matchbook cover found in the raincoat), where he’s asked by the couple to identify the man with a severe twitching problem–he’s the one who gave the bum the raincoat minus the belt. The police catch up with the couple, who find the guilty party twitching away and made up in a black face as part of his act as a drummer in a band.

If one went over the plot line, many holes could be found (for one thing, never tracking down the hubby as a likely suspect and checking out the wife’s background). Nonetheless, the film had a joyous spirit filled with many delightful touches by the director that makes everything seem so effortless and diverting.