CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR. Monogram Pictures, 1942. Robert Lowery, Edith Fellows, John Miljan, Jan Wiley, Charles Jordan, George O’Hanlon, Vivian Wilcox. Director: Jean Yarbrough.


   There are a few reasons to watch this terrifically inept murder mystery movie, but the plot is not one of them. In recent months I’ve come to enjoy Robert Lowery’s performances, and seeing juvenile star Edith Fellow’s last movie before her comeback in television in 1949 comes as a distinct pleasure as well. (She was Polly Pepper of Five Little Peppers fame, for example, as well as one of Mrs. Wiggs children in the Cabbage Patch movie.)

   Lowrey’s a brash newspaper reporter in this movie, but he got the job only because his father is the commissioner and he has it only until he messes up, which his editor suspects is going to be right away. But luckily Bob Martin (that’s Lowery), college grad, knows sign language, which he uses to talk to a formerly uncommunicative prisoner after sneaking his way into jail to interview him. Unlucky for him, though, the guy behind the bars pulls a fast one, and uses a phony story to send a message in code to his lawyer.


   Why the elaborate scheme? Don’t ask. Martin’s next assignment is even more mind-boggling. He arrives too late to see Joyce Greeley being released from prison on parole, and she ends up dead, dumped on a suburban lawn and found by Martin as he nonchalantly walks by. Who’s Joyce Greeley, you ask? None other than the girl who was the subject of the coded message in the previous paragraph.

   Wait, wait, there’s more. Martin then happens across the dead man’s sister (Edith Fellows) in the bus station waiting for his sister to show up. Totally by accident, of course, and the sister has no idea why the bad guys are after her, nor even that her sister was in jail. (A propos of nothing, Ellen Farrell was at least a foot shorter than Robert Lowery, but they do make a good team together.)

   Some of the action takes place in a theater where a musical revue is being rehearsed, which gives Jan Wiley a chance to sing a couple of songs while some long-legged beauties show off their talents in the background.

   I’ll give this movie two stars (out of ten) and give you a break by telling you no more about the plot, which I admit had some promise, but as you know full well, not all promises are always kept.