Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:         

FROM HEADQUARTERS. Warner Brothers, 1933. George Brent, Margaret Lindsay, Eugene Pallette, Robert Barratt, Hugh Herbert, Henry O’Neill, Hobart Cavanaugh, Ken Murray, Murray Kinnell, Kenneth Thompson Screenplay by Peter Milne & Robert N. Lee (his story). Director: William Dieterle.

   From Headquarters is a fast paced murder mystery taking place at police headquarters where Lt. Jim Stevens (George Brent) is investigating the murder of Broadway playboy Gordon Bates (Kenneth Thompson), who was shot with one of the antique guns in his collection. Complicating things is the fact Stevens is in love with Lou Winton (Margaret Lindsay), who overthrew him for Bates, and her younger brother is a suspect.

   What makes this stand out, aside from the players and director, is that there is an actual decent mystery here with well-placed red herrings, actual scientific detection, solid police work, and intelligent policemen, even Sgt. Boggs (Eugene Pallette, Sgt. Heath from the Philo Vance films), who may jump to a few conclusions but is no dummy.

   Suspects include the girl and her brother, the butler Horton (Murray Kinnell), safecracker Muggs Manton (Hobart Cavanaugh), and antiques collector Anderzian (Robert Barratt), with detection by Stevens and Boggs and Inspector Donnelly (Henry O’Neill) as well as various police technicians. Ken Murray, best known to most of us for his color home movies of Hollywood celebrities is a wise-cracking reporter, and Hugh Herbert an annoying bail bondsman with sharp eyes.

   The investigation takes place over a single day and reaches its climax with a murder in police headquarters itself, but along the way each suspect gets his or her moment, the focus twists and turns as false leads and new evidence emerge, and if the ending isn’t exactly a surprise (in fact it is literally the oldest cliche in the book) it is all so well handled and played you will likely not care.

   Frankly this one is better written and thought out with a better plot than most so called mysteries on television today, the police behaving as professionals, competent even when they aren’t terribly smart. With crisp pacing, decent writing, sharp direction, and good performances this little film is smarter and a better mystery than many of its better known cousins.

   I’ll even go so far as to say I don’t think you would have been unhappy if you had read it in a book, and even many film mysteries based on books can’t make that claim.