Mon 28 Jun 2010
THE NINTH GUEST. Columbia Pictures, 1934. Donald Cook, Genevieve Tobin, Hardie, Edward Ellis, Edwin Maxwell, Vince Barnett, Helen Flint, Samuel S. Hinds, Nella Walker. Based on the novel The Invisible Host, by Gwen Bristow & Bruce Manning; previously produced as a play, The Ninth Guest, by Owen Davis, who is also given credit as one of two co-screenwriters. Director: Roy William Neill.
Regular readers of this blog will recall that The Invisible Host, the book by Bristow and Manning this movie was nominally based upon, has been reviewed here twice before, once by David Vineyard, the second time by Jim McCahery.
So I needn’t go into as much detail about the film as I might have otherwise. Suffice it to say, I trust, that eight socialites of New Orleans are tricked into attending a murder party. Trapped in an apartment high above ground level, their host, a voice only on the promises them they will all be dead by morning, unless they manage to outwit him.
And straightforwardly, he begins doing just that, preying on their weaknesses, finding the flaws in their characters and allowing them, in many cases, to bring their own doom down around them.
It’s difficult to say how closely the movie follows the book, even with two reviews, The opening scenes in the deadly apartment are the same, that much is clear, but I think I’d rather read the book myself, as I suspect some trimming may have been done, or the details changed, in order to fit it into its 65 minutes of running time.
In that sense, it may easily follow the play more closely than the book, but film itself, with some qualifications, is certainly worth watching. The apartment is filled with dark rooms and dark corners and dark stairs, and the director and the head cameraman certainly make the most of it.
In all honesty, when you think about it, once the movie’s over, you have to realize how unlikely the whole scenario has been, and how almost impossible it would have been, from the murderer’s point of view, to have pulled it off as successfully as he did. Another problem, from the viewer’s point of view, this time, is that as the number of survivors begins to decrease, it becomes easier and easier to decide who the killer might be.
Assuming, of course, that the killer is one of the eight, and just so that I don’t give everything away, that I will refrain from confirming. You might want to watch the movie yourself, and with the qualifications I previously mentioned, I most certainly recommend that you do.