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Mystery Movies

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"Bulldog Drummond" Film Series
"Charlie Chan" Film Series
"The Falcon" Film Series
"The Ghost Walks" (1934)

"The Saint" Film Series
"Sherlock Holmes" Film Series (Basil Rathbone)
"The Thin Man" Film Series

Quick Reviews:

"Behind Closed Doors" (1948)
"The Invisible Ghost" (1941)
Monogram Pictures' "The Shadow" Series
"The Return of Dr. Mabuse" (1961)

Behind Closed Doors (1948)-  The later reissue title was "Human Gorilla", which I feel is a stupid and inaccurate title.  "Behind Closed Doors" is much more appropriate.  This is a very good film and watchable by today's standards.  It's an impressive achievement when you take into account two things; one, it's old and two, it's a very low-budget "poverty row studio" film.  This is somewhat of a mystery, but more of a suspense-thriller.  Nowadays, it is referred to as "film noir".

    The acting is top-notch all the way around and the story is very well-written...and a cool concept.  A woman reporter hires a private detective to go undercover in an insane asylum.  Why?  She believes that a crooked judge, wanted by the police, is hiding out inside the sanitarium.  But the detective finds out that there's much more wrongdoing going on than he anticipated.  Likable, loathable, and otherwise memorable characters really help give this movie personality.  This isn't so "cookie cutter" like many films of this kind.  I recommend "Behind Closed Doors"; it's worth watching!

    "Human Gorilla", the film's alternate title, refers to Tor Johnson's character we only know as "The Champ".  From what we are told, The Champ is a violent ex-boxer that goes crazy every time he hears a bell or other jingling-type noise.  He really has a very small part and is only shown a few times before the film's climax.


Richard Carlson as Ross Stewart, the detective
Lucille Bremer as Kathy Lawrence, the reporter
Herbert Heyes as Judge Finlay Drake
Thomas Browne Henry as Dr. Clifford Porter, Drake's accomplice
Douglas Fowley as Larson, the abusive attendant
Ralf Harolde as Fred Hopps, the kindly attendant
Gwen Donovan as Madge Bennett, Drake's girlfriend
Trevor Bardette as Purvis, Stewart's roommate [uncredited]
Morgan Farley as Topper, the firebug [uncredited]
Dickie Moore as Jim, Hopps' son [uncredited]
Tor Johnson as The Champ [uncredited]
Wally Vernon as Maintenance Man, sign painter at beginning [uncredited]
John Holland as Dr. J.R. Bell [uncredited]
Tony Horton as Trooper Captain [uncredited]
Kathleen Freeman as Nurse [uncredited]

Director- Budd Boetticher [credited as Oscar Boetticher]
Writers- Eugene Ling and Marvin Wald

Alternative Titles:
Fun Facts:

The Invisible Ghost (1941)
-  This is a mystery movie without mystery.  We know who the killer is from the beginning!  It sort of follows the much later "Columbo" formula, where others try to find the culprit while the viewer already knows who it is.  Bela Lugosi, most famous for being film's standard "Dracula", plays the wealthy, but kind Charles Kessler.  He believes he keeps seeing the "ghost" of his dead wife, who is really still alive.  When Kessler sees his wife, he flips out and starts killing people.  The strangest thing is that he is completely unaware of his actions.  We know that several people have been killed before the events that take place in this film, but in the movie three people are killed.  The first is beautiful blonde maid, Cecile.  Then it's Jules Mason, the gardener.  Detective Ryan is the last to get it.

    It's a good enough little show, but there are a few things that work against it.  One boner is the title, "The Invisible Ghost".  It's about as lame as something like "The Doorway Entrance" or "The Monster Creature".  Duh!  Does invisibility somehow make this ghost distinct from other ghosts?  In the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, B-movies liked to go with names that were really sensational and sounded exciting.  There was a real movie called "The Mad Monster".  B-movie film titles were often lame, but they looked good on a marqee sign.  This film title was also a bit misleading.  There never really was a ghost, nor was it invisible.

    Another silly thing about this movie is the Ralph Dickson/Paul Dickson dual role by John McGuire.  Ralph Dickson is accused of murdering Cecile the maid based only on the fact that they found a note with the name Ralph on it, and that Ralph knew Cecile at one time.  There was no other evidence, and Ralph was executed!  No fingerprints on Cecile, nothing else that led to Ralph's guilt.  Just a silly note and a "gut hunch" that Ralph was up to no good.  Ralph Dickson and Kessler's daughter, Virginia, were to be wed until his execution.  So now Virginia's sad.  The killings continue, and no one really seems to think anything more about Ralph being wrongfully executed.  Paul Dickson, Ralph's identical twin brother, just happens to pop in from South America to help solve the mystery.  And it's like Ralph never existed!  This sucks!  It was just a cheap ploy to add a little more excitement and drama into the story.  There was no good reason to kill Ralph.  Ralph could have been let go on lack of evidence, and he could have continued trying to solve the mystery.  The whole thing with the identical twin was completely unnecessary and dumb.

    I think another faux pas was that this movie did not really have a happy ending.  If Ralph were kept alive, he and Virginia could have lived happily ever after once the nightmare was over.  Or maybe a romance could have developed between Paul and Virginia.  Or if Charles Kessler and his estranged wife reconciled.  All we see is a nice man who is driven to insanity and ultimately caught, to later pay the ultimate penalty.  In that regard, it can be depressing.

    The high points are that the basic story is pretty good, the filming is well done, and the actors are good.  The best performance in this film definitely comes from Clarence Muse, who plays Evans the butler.  This was a very good role for Clarence Muse.  It was not a stereotypical portrayal of black people.  Evans was a pretty straight character, and still had some humor to him.  He did not act wide-eyed and ignorant, and no one in the movie tried to downplay him.  Evans is a respectable character.  I'm happy to say that Clarence Muse worked a lot in television and film, up through the time of his death in 1979.

    "The Invisible Ghost" is a fast-paced, 63-minute little movie that's great for casual, late-night viewing.


Bela Lugosi as Charles Kessler
Polly Ann Young as Virginia Kessler
John McGuire as Ralph & Paul Dickson
Clarence Muse as Evans the Butler
Betty Compson as Mrs. Kessler
Ernie Adams as Jules Mason
Ollola Nesmith as Mrs. Mason
Terry Walker as Cecile
George Pembroke as Lieutenant Williams
Jack Mulhall as Detective Tim
Fred Kelsey as Detective Ryan

Director- Joseph H. Lewis
Writers- Al & Helen Martin

Alternative Titles:

Murder by the Stars [US, working title]
The Phantom Killer [US, working title]
Phantom Monster [US, working title]

Fun Facts:

This was the last filmed appearance for Polly Ann Young, who worked quite regularly since the silent movie days.
This was the first of nine movies Bela Lugosi starred in for producer Sam Katzman at Monogram Pictures.
Before the title was established as "The Invisible Ghost", this movie had a number of different titles in the working stages.
Ernie Adams (Jules the gardener) starred in well over 400 movies in his lifetime!

Monogram Pictures' "The Shadow" Series

The Shadow Returns (1946)
Behind the Mask (1946)
The Missing Lady (1946)

The Return of Dr. Mabuse (1961)-  I was surprised by the quality of this German-made, English-dubbed mystery thriller.  It's sharply written, well-acted, and interesting as hell.  Gert Frobe, best-known as villain Goldfinger in the James Bond film of the same name (1965), plays the hero Inspector Lohmann.  It's a shame Frobe is known primarily as the humorless gold fiend from the Bond franchise, because he is an extremely personable and likable "good guy" actor.

    The secondary hero is Joe Como, alias Nick Scoppio, alias Bob Arco.  He's just about as mysterious as the villain.  Como is played by Tarzan actor (1949-1953) Lex Barker.  Lex is a cool-looking guy, and this was a good role for him.

    Daliah Lavi plays the leading lady, Maria Sabrehm, who is trying to locate her missing scientist father.  Lavi may be the hottest thing to come from Israel.  I'm glad she had long-lasting success as an actress, because she certainly had the looks and the acting talent.

    There have been several Dr. Mabuse films (pronounced "ma-boos").  He is believed to be the first "supervillain" in fiction, debuting in a 1921 German novel by Norbert Jacques.  Influences include pulp-fiction magazine-style villains like Dr. Fu Manchu and Fantomas, but Dr. Mabuse took on a life of his own.  He is extremely mysterious and borders on demonic, although it is unproven if he is anything but human.  In this movie, Dr. Mabuse is the criminal mastermind behind a series of brutal murders and bent on world domination.  Lohmann had believed Mabuse dead from a previous adventure, and it is uncertain at first if this well-hidden figure truly is Mabuse.  We do find, however, that it is Dr. Mabuse.  The evil doctor is killed in a train accident, but Lohmann doubts the man's death at the end of the film.

    Mabuse rarely kills people or commits crimes by his own hand, much like Sherlock Holmes' Moriarty.  Instead, he operates through a series of agents and hypnotized thugs.  Methods of murder are often quite colorful.  In "The Return of Dr. Mabuse", people are getting killed left and right in unusual ways and Lohmann is trying to figure out the madman's motivations; It couldn't be more exciting.

Fun Facts: