Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Secret in the Blue Room

"The Secret in the Blue Room" (1933) is an excellent movie in all ways except for one: Is it suspense, mystery, ghost story, . . . ?
Miss Maven doesn't really care. She just thinks it's a gottahave movie, especially for Halloween!
Even the sets are great, some of which are supposedly borrowed from "The Old Dark House" or from "Frankenstein."
The atmosphere is great, starting with a thunderstorm and maintaining that edgy feeling throughout the film.
The cast is the best Universal could get with Lionel Atwill as Baron von Helldorf and Gloria Stuart as his daughter, Irene. Backing them up is Edward Arnold as Commissioner Forster, Paul Lukas as Captain Walter Brink, and Onslow Stevens as Frank Farber.
The plot involves the Blue Room and it being locked up because of the mysterious deaths that occurred there years before. William Janney (as Thomas Brandt) proposes that he, Lukas and Stevens each spend the night in the Blue Room to prove who is the bravest man to win Gloria Stuart's love.
There are side stories that add to the over-all pleasure like who is the stranger that the butler trying to smuggle in and why is Muriel Kirkland so deliciously malicious a maid?
Elizabeth Patterson is the von Helldorf cook and is great fun as a frightened suspect trying to convince Arnold's Commissioner of her innocence.
"The Missing Guest" (1938) is a mustsee film in Miss Maven's opinion, especially during October!
It has its good points (plot, actors, sets and an occasional ghost) but it does come off as light-weight compared to it's predecessor.
"Secret . . ." started off with a birthday party for Irene von Helldorf.
"The Missing Guest" has the parents of Stephanie Kirkland (played by Constance Moore) reopening their house (after 20 years) with a masquerade party. The story from there is basically the same from "Secret . . . ."
One difference, though, is Onslow Steven's reporter, Frank Faber, changes from one of Gloria Stuart's suitors to Paul Kelly's reporter (pictured above) who is sent to get an article on the myserious house or loose his job.
"Murder in the Blue Room" is a 1944 movie with Anne Gwynne as Nan Kirkland. She even sings during the masquerade party scene at the beginning of the movie. (Miss Maven's own Mother did the same thing.)
This version is still a mustsee (presuming you can find a copy to watch as Miss Maven hadn't seen it for years until recently!) but you might feel like it's "The Missing Guest" Lite!
It does have its interesting moments, including a better part for a spook.
"Missing . . ." may have originally written for the three Ritz Brothters. Their parts turned into "The Jazzy Belles" (including "Baby" June Prieser) who perform at the party.
It also had Bill Williams, who was married to Barbara Hale, also known as Della Street in television's Perry Mason so she knew a few things about mysteries, too!
"Secret . . ." may have originally been written for the Ritz Brother but their parts were turned into (Miss Maven doesn't make this stuff up!) "The Three Jazzy Belles" who perform during the party.
The amount of screen time they have isn't takein up with their act. They also try their hands at solving the Secret of the Blue Room and gives credence to the story being a vehicle for the Ritz Brothers who eventually made "The Gorilla."
A nice change from the guys doing all the mystery-solving back then!
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