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Thursday, September 24, 2015

ALIBI FOR MURDER (1936)

Back in the ‘30s & ‘40s, Hollywood studios tried to maintain a few bread-and-butter Murder Mystery series. Cheap, modestly profitable, they kept contract talent usefully busy and helped train/show off newbies. Even little Columbia Pictures had Boston Blackie; Crime Doctor; and the Lone Wolf ratiocinating away. This toss-away programmer didn’t make the charmed circle, yet the one-off shows more promise than some that did. It starts out in dandy fashion as a gaggle of about-to-be suspects deplane (or rather de-zeppelin) off the just landed Hindenburg. Yep, that Hindenburg, a year before it blew. (What an ending that might have made!) Waiting to interview the latest celebs in town is radio newshound William Gargan (a forgotten leading man of the ‘30s on his way down to supporting roles). Gargan’s quite good here, smooth & solid, and the film zips along in spirited fashion under hack helmer D. Ross Lederman even when the plot doesn’t exactly add up. (World-renowned scientist is murdered for his latest discovery . . . or maybe not.) No help from the flat supporting players, not even from Dwight Frye of DRACULA/’31 fame. (Though the comic relief sidekick manages to grab some attention by being painfully unfunny.) Still, not a bad lesson in how these things got developed.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The Peter Lorre MR. MOTOs from 20th/Fox are the gold standard for these things.

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