Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Murder at Glen Athol (1936)

My notes on Murder at Glen Athol (1936)

‘Will he be all right?’

‘I’m afraid not. That gunshot wound was bad enough, and the fall off the roof didn’t help him any.’

Detective Bill Holt (John Miljan) attends a weekend party in a country house – so, naturally, several folks turn up murdered, starting with gaily amoral Muriel Randall (Iris Adrian), who has divorced one elderly husband (Harry Holman), driven a younger second husband to insanity (he turns up as one of the corpses) and is moving in vampishly on his younger brother (Barry Norton, ‘Juan Harker from the Spanish Dracula), and is using her inside-knowledge of a gangland rub-out to extort booze and cash from local racketeer Gus Colleti (Noel Madison). When Muriel turns up stabbed in bed, it’s no wonder that everyone is suspect – and Bill is especially keen on proving that the pretty Jane Maxwell (Irene Ware), first wife of the second husband, didn’t do it.

Quite apart from the unlikeliness of anyone who’s been extensively walked over by Muriel wanting to spend a weekend in her company for any reason other than murder, the plot clips from corpse to corpse quite nicely – even if it’s the usual surplus suspect, after the rest of the cast have been whittled away as red herrings or secondary victims, who turns out to have been guilty. Interestingly, Bill – who keeps insisting he’s not on duty – is on the point of letting the fairly sympathetic killer get away with it when the guilty party owns up. With Betty Blythe (the silent She), James Burtis (comical pugilist sidekick), Lew Kelly (local cop), Wilson Benge (butler).

Director Frank R. Strayer has all the resources of Invincible Pictures, which is to say not much more than an array of solid non-star players and a familiar old house set. John W. Krafft scripted, from a novel (‘The Criminal Within’) by Norman Lippincott. The film is slightly distinguished by its more-interesting-than-usual female characters (even the traditionally horrid victim is appealing enough to make you see why so many folks would let her destroy them before reaching for the dagger); Ware (Princess Nadja in Chandu the Magician) and Adrian (Lady of Burlesque) are both attractive, sexy and have personality enough to suggest their careers ought to have amounted to more than they did. The vital clue is that old one-sided conversation gambit whereby the killer establishes an alibi by pretending to have a chat with someone who is already dead.


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