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Monday, August 26, 2013

TERROR BY NIGHT (1946)

By the time this penultimate entry in Universal’s SHERLOCK HOLMES series came out, the films were running on fumes. Only the poster holds on to the old panache. It’s a mystery-on-a-train tale, more Agatha Christie than Conan Doyle, about a fabulous ‘cursed’ diamond that goes missing . . . or does it? The only real mystery here is how the cast seems to keep changing trains every time we cut to the next unmatched exterior stock-shot. ‘Chuga-chuga-chuga.’ That’s simple economy, of course, but the earlier pics worked hard to camouflage their small budgets. Here, no one seems to care. The execs knew what a ‘Holmes pic’ cost; what a ‘Holmes pic’ made. Good, bad or indifferent, the numbers pretty much stayed the same. Probably true, but it still doesn’t excuse all the dangling story lines among the ‘red herrings.’

WATCH THIS NOT THAT: Sidney Lumet’s all-star version of Christie’s MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS/’74 must be the luxest of all mystery-on-a-train movies. Brimming with deliciously funny turns by its knockout cast.

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