MYSTERY LINER. Monogram, 1934. Noah Beery, Astrid Allwyn, Edwin Maxwell, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Ralph Lewis, Cornelius Keefe, Zeffie Tilbury, Boothe Howard. Based on the short story “The Ghost of John Holling” (The Saturday Evening Post, 8 March 1924) by Edgar Wallace. Director: William Nigh.

   The story was good enough to be reprinted in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (April 1963), but watching this movie based on it is as big a waste of time as watching the city trucks cruise up and down the block on garbage pickup day.

   It has something to do with a new scientific discovery that allows ships at sea to be operated by remote control from a staff of laboratory workers on shore. Lots of secret skulkers abound, including someone who looks like the previous captain, who was replaced when he was overcome by madness and was taken to a sanitarium.

   Plus secret passages, if I’m not giving too much away, a shot in the dark when the lights go out, another murder, and for comedy relief, a noisy old biddy who takes over the film when nothing else of importance is going on, which seems like half the film, but probably isn’t.

   Director William Nigh went on to better if not bigger things, such as the Mr. Wong movies, but Noah Beery’s role of the original captain is so small it could have been played by anyone. Some claim he was in it only for his name on the marquee value. Certainly no one else’s had any, then or now.