The real mystery on this little detective thriller (a decent enough programmer once the lead is offed) is why Edgar Allan Poe’s trio of Paris crime stories for proto-detective C. Auguste Dupin, the Rosetta Stone of ratiocination tales, haven’t been adapted by the usual suspects. We should be on the third or fourth PBS/Mystery iteration by now. True, the little stories need expanding, but that hardly disqualifies them from BBC/PBS attention. Heck, last time ‘round they added a prologue to Dickens’ not exactly narrative-starved OLIVER TWIST. And what of the plotty back-flips for THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD? As for this MYSTERY, well, Universal didn’t exactly go all out. Director Phil Rosen, a Monogram Pictures stalwart, proves a dull dog, though he does perk up a bit on backlot exteriors, just don’t hope for much Parisian flavor. Patric Knowles makes for an amusingly disengaged Dupin, here a sort of forensic chemical doctor; and the ancient Maria Ouspenskaya, as the victim’s ambivalent mother, retains her odd manner of looking past her fellow players. (No doubt searching for old pals from the Moscow Art Players.) Plus the always slightly bizarre Maria Montez as Marie Roget in her last near-normal role before Universal figured out how to properly use her (and TechniColor!) in a series of deliriously silly adventure pics.
DOUBLE-BILL: MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE is the Poe/Dupin story that gets all the feature & tv attention (’86; ‘71; ‘54; ‘32), none too happily.