MIDNIGHT MYSTERY. 1930. Betty Compson, Lowell Sherman, Raymond Hatton, Hugh Trevor, June Clyde. Director: George B. Seitz.

BETTY COMPSON

   It was a dark and stormy night … on a rock-bound island off the coast of Cuba. [FOOTNOTE] A mansion, full of guests, laughter and merriment, and suddenly … a shot rings out.

   A rush to the wall at the edge of the cliff … and a body is seen being washed out to sea. A confession … despair … hatred … and (would you believe?) murder.

   The fiancee of the accused man, with whom she has been quarreling, is also a writer of mystery novels (‚Äúdime novels,” he sneers), and in this movie she proves her worth as a detective. While we (the viewer) know who the killer is, it is nice, on occasion, one such as this, to be able to follow the deductions along with the sleuth of the story.

   And a stagey sort of story it is (not surprisingly, being adapted directly from a play, one called Hawk Island), with the acting ranging from barely adequate to abysmal. By today’s standards, I hasten to add.

   The only player I recognized was Raymond Hatton, but after seeing him as a cowboy sidekick in countless other movies of a type other than this, I’m not sure I would have recognized him, what with suit jacket, vest and tie, if his name hadn’t appeared early on in the credits.

[FOOTNOTE]   There is some confusion about this, as this week’s TV Guide says it was off the coast of Maine, which seems more likely, but I checked the beginning of the movie again, and no, it says Cuba, right there in the opening scene.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File #35, November 1993, very slightly revised.


[UPDATE] 10-26-10.   I should still have the video tape I made of this movie, and I certainly hope so, since I’ve not been able to find one on DVD. Presumably I taped it from either TCM or American Movie Classics, so there is no doubt that it does still exist somewhere.

    Betty Compson, pictured above, made a lot of silent films, and I mean a lot, but she survived the switch to talkies and was still making movies through the late 1940s, albeit of the “B” variety, a la Hard Boiled Mahoney (1947), which I watched a month or so ago during an all-day Bowery Boys marathon.