NINE LIVES ARE NOT ENOUGH. Warner Brothers, 1941. Ronald Reagan, Joan Perry, James Gleason, Howard da Silva, Faye Emerson , Edward Brophy, Peter Whitney, Charles Drake. Based on the novel by Jerome Odlum. Director: A. Edward Sutherland.

   You can call me confused if you want, but the leading character in this film is a brash young reporter named Matt Sawyer, while the Kirkus review for the book says the reporter’s name is Johnny O’Sullivan, and Al Hubin in Crime Fiction IV says the leading character is somebody called John Steele, a fellow that in a review Kirkus did of another of Odlum’s books they call a PI. There is no PI in the movie.

   No matter. Maybe someone can straighten me out on this, even though Jerome Odlum as a mystery writer is all but unknown today. I’ll stick to the film in the rest of the review, and I’ll bet you’ve already matched a young brash Ronald Reagan with the Matt Sawyer fellow I mentioned up there in the first paragraph.

   Sawyer is the kind of guy who when he calls in a story he gets a small detail wrong, and when the detail (murder vs suicide) somehow gets into the headline of the paper he’s working for, it doesn’t make his editor (Howard da Silva) very happy at all.

   Sawyer does have a point, however. The dead man is supposed to have shot himself, but the body is found with his hands in his pockets. But what is the coroner to think when the door is locked and the windows shut tight? It has to be suicide.

   Sawyer has to depend on to a pair of agreeable cops (one of whom is played of course by James Gleason) to help him out of the jam he’s in. That he also falls immediately in love with the dead man’s daughter (Joan Perry) causes some complications.

   Much of the film is played for laughs. The second cop always seems to have his tongue hanging out for his next cold brew, for example, and Peter Whitney (his film debut) plays a hulk of a boy-man with limited (shall we say) mental capabilities.

   As always seems the case in movies like this, the first half plays better than the second. When the producer and director are forced to realize that they also have to solve the case, they also start to get serious. Well, at least a little. They can always fill in any gaps in the plot with a lot of action. They locked room aspect, for example, is covered in one throwaway line. Blink for a moment and you’ve missed it.

   I enjoyed this one, though. You may, too, if you allow your sense of humor to prevail. It won’t make much of any other kind of sense, but it’s still a movie that’s fun to watch.