BERMUDA MYSTERY. 20th Century-Fox, 1944. Preston Foster, Ann Rutherford, Charles Butterworth, Helene Reynolds, Jean Howard, Richard Lane, Theodore von Eltz, Jason Robards (Sr). Based on a story by John Larkin. Director: Benjamin Stoloff.

   While there is more comedy and romance in this detective story, there is still enough mystery involved to make this strictly B-movie interesting and enjoyable, not to mention that the comedy and romance have a lot to do with it, too!


   It’s also a private eye novel, straight from the pages of a 1940s Dime Detective magazine, which is to say slightly wacky and screwballish in nature, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that, either. Preston Foster is the PI, a guy named Steve Carramond, and his client is a girl (naturally), the vivacious dark-haired Constance Martin (Ann Rutherford), and the niece of one of the members of a tontine who has recently died under suspicious circumstances.

   A tontine is one of those agreements in which the last surviving members of a group of individuals who’ve put money into a large pot, so to speak, split the proceeds. Not that the word tontine is ever mentioned in the movie, but it’s explained well enough for everyone in the audience to know exactly what’s going on.

   Well, more or less, that is, as any resemblance to actual police procedure goes by the boards fairly quickly. Did I mention that the story takes place in New York City? I should. Only the opening scenes take place in Bermuda, where Connie’s uncle lived. The other members all live in Manhattan, or they did, until they start to die off shortly before the end of the group’s agreement.

   Here’s where the romance comes in. Steve is hired a little under protest, as he’s supposed to be getting married the next day, but when Connie winks at us (the audience) we know precisely how that’s going to come out. Which it does.


   How the movie comes out, and who the killer is, is another matter altogether.

   In a tontine story, there are so many possible choices as to who might be the killer, a story writer really doesn’t have to be all that clever — just keep the action going, which it does, fairly nearly foot-on-the-floor and non-stop all the way.

   Ann Rutherford, who was only 24 when she made this movie, is a charmer all the way, having already finished a long career through her teens as Polly Benedict in the Andy Hardy movies. Preston Foster, besides doing the heavy lifting, also does “put upon” very well in the comedy and romance end of things.

   (For more on director Benjamin Stoloff, as well as some early discussion of Bermuda Mystery, see the comments following Walter Albert’s review of Super-Sleuth, which he also directed.)

   But don’t get me wrong. In spite of the usual nonsense that accumulates in B-movie mysteries like this, there actually is some cleverness involved. You may scope it out as easily as I, or maybe even easier, as I wasn’t really trying. Mostly I was just enjoying myself.

PostScript. In those earlier comments following Super-Sleuth, here’s what David Vineyard had to say about this movie in particular:

    “Though it isn’t listed as such at IMDB, Bermuda Mystery is a remake of the Crime Club Mystery film The Last Warning based on Jonathan Latimer’s The Dead Don’t Care. Foster played PI Bill Crane in the Last Warning. The mystery is something of a Thin Man style romantic mystery, though in some ways so is Latimer’s novel.

    “Bermuda Mystery has a screenplay by John Larkin (Quiet Please, Murder!) who wrote several good screenplays and directed a bit too.”