John Miljan as Prescott Ames, the playwright.
June Collyer as Gloria Shaw, Prescott's fiance.
Richard Carle as Herman Wood, the famous stage producer.
Johnny Arthur as Homer Erskine, Wood's effeminate assistant.
Henry Kolker as Dr. Kent.
Donald Kirke as Terry Gray.
Eve Southern as Beatrice.
Wilson Benge as Jarvis.
Douglas Gerrard as Carroway, the English butler.
Spencer Charters as the Sanitarium Guard, later discovered as the
Jack Shutta as Head Guard.
Harry Strang as Guard.
Director- Frank Strayer
Writer- Charles Belden (original screenplay) The Ghost Walks (1934): Surprisingly
good old murder mystery movie, in which NO murder is ever
committed! Believe it or not, this film actually does have some
surprises, even for the seasoned mystery movie buff. The acting
is pretty decent. No one is terrible, although John Miljan is a
bit hokey in parts. He mostly played villains in film and
television, so I don't think playing a straight-arrow leading man was
his forte. Fun to see is June Collyer as the female lead.
She is the sister of Bud Collyer, voice of Superman in radio and
cartoons. She was also, even at this time, the wife of comedian
Stu Erwin. They both later achieved greater fame as TV's
real-life sitcom couple on "The Stu Erwin Show" aka "The Trouble With
Eve Southern as Beatrice is pretty. Only two
years later, she was forced to retire from films when a car accident
broke her back. This is a shame, because she acted fairly solid
in films for a twenty year period. At the time of this movie, she
was 36. But the two actors that really carry this movie are
Richard Carle and Johnny Arthur. They play, respectively, the
grumpy old producer and his effeminate assistant. Richard Carle
is a funny old fart! That's the best way to describe him.
He was in lots of stuff. Johnny Arthur was also a prominent
character actor. I like him! He normally does comedy parts,
playing real sissies. Very funny! Both he and Carle are
gifted with great comic timing.
Director Frank Strayer had a pretty prolific career
and would become most famous as the first (and highest regarded)
director of the "Blondie" film series. He seemed to have a
fascination with both the mystery and comedy genres, often mixing the
two. A great example of this, outside of this film, is "Blondie
Has Servant Trouble" (1940) in which the Bumsteads stay in a "haunted"
house only to uncover a mystery. Writer Charles Belden was also
pretty accomplished. He, too, seemed to favor mystery and
comedy. They work pretty darn well together, creatively at
least. I don't know what their working relationship was like.
FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS! DON'T READ IF IT
SPOILS YOUR MOVIE EXPERIENCE!
Prescott Ames (John Miljan) is a struggling
playwright with a mystery play called "The Ghost Walks" that he wants
to present to famous stage producer Herman Wood (Richard Carle).
While driving in a terrible storm, Ames, Wood, and Wood's sissy
assistant Homer Erskine (Johnny Arthur), are forced to stay at a creepy
old mansion for the night. Ames knows that this house belongs to
his friend, Dr. Kent (Richard Kolker), and that he was supposed to be
here this night for another engagement. Left with no alternative,
Ames and company must stay at the house until the storm clears.
In the meantime, all guests of the house are to participate in a
strange, annual ritual. Two years ago, John, the husband of
Beatrice, was murdered at the dinner table. Each year, on this
date, Beatrice acts very strange and weird things happen to make
everyone believe John's ghost is wandering the house. This night,
Beatrice is determined to learn of John's murderer once and for
all. After so much happens, Wood and Erskine flee upstairs, ready
to pack their belongings and leave the house. They soon discover
what we find out a little earlier: Everyone in the house except
for Wood and Erskine are actors, and they were rehearsing the first act
of Ames' play!
Something goes terribly wrong, however, and
Beatrice, who was only to disappear, is found dead! How or why or
by whom is a mystery. Ames and his cast of actors come clean to
Woods and Erskine, but they're stupid enough to think that they're
still putting on a play. Ames admits that this is really his
house, and he's been renting it for a month. It formerly belonged
to a psychotic surgeon who, after butchering his many victims, was
finally arrested and executed. He was able to get it cheap
because no one felt safe enough to buy it or rent it. Ames only
rented this house as a setting for the grand rehearsal of his proposed
A guard from a nearby insane asylum comes into the
house in search of an escaped mental patient who has been known to kill
people. He, himself, acts very odd. He tells everyone right
away that he thinks the psychopath is hiding somewhere in the house,
but is uncertain of his motives.
Then, Beatrice's body goes missing! Next,
Terry disappears. Then Gloria, and finally Herman Wood. It
is discovered that there are all kinds of hidden passageways, tunnels,
and rooms. The psychopath is found (it's the guard, duh!) with
the four missing people. Beatrice was never dead, only given a
powerful drug that made it appear she was dead. We know Gloria
was chloroformed, and assume that the men were, too. The maniac
is recreating the events of the mad doctor who once lived in this
house. It isn't long before Ames and the remaining guests, and
two actual guards from the sanitarium, come and find the nut.
He's taken back to the sanitarium before he can do any real harm, and
it's a happy ending! Wood does not want the play Ames proposed,
but rather a play based on THESE events. I like it that no one
actually dies. This aspect still keeps the film within the realm
of a light-hearted comedy. It just works. And it goes
against the cliche of people getting killed left and right in a mystery
I have only two criticisms. First, John Miljan
seems to come off a bit hokey at times in this movie. He's still
good enough, as is the rest of the cast, but he did seem to be "not
into it". Second, it was a bit too obvious that the guard was the
psycho, right from his first appearance. To make it more
suspenseful, they should have had the guard act straight. I don't
know if the filmmakers wanted us to know he was the psycho right away,
or what, but it wasn't overly bright to do for a mystery movie.
All in all, though, this is a fun little movie and I
recommend it to fans of classic mystery movies along the order of
"Charlie Chan", "Sherlock Holmes", and similar films.
For This Film:
Made by Invincible Pictures Corp. As far as I know, Invincible
Pictures lasted only from 1932-1936.