LORD EDGWARE DIES. RKO Radio Pictures, UK, 1934. Austin Trevor (Hercule Poirot), Jane Carr, Richard Cooper (Captain Hastings), John Turnbull (Inspector Japp), C. V. France Screenplay by H. Fowler Mear, based on the 1933 novel by Agatha Christie. Directed by Henry Edwards. Currently available on YouTube.

   “Lady Edgware is a killer, but she isn’t like other people, she doesn’t know right from wrong.”

   Why is everyone trying to frame Lady Edgware for murder, including herself, even before anyone dies?

   At a charity ball Lady Edgware (Jane Carr), an American musical star who married into a peerage, tries to engage Hercule Poirot (Austin Trevor) and his friend Captain Hastings (Richard Cooper) to persuade her older husband Lord Edgware (C.V. France) to give her a divorce before she kills him. Not long after that a young actor friend of Lady Edgware from Hollywood goes to Poirot to beg him to help her before she kills her husband in desperation claiming she could do anything and does not understand right from wrong.

   Ironically when Poirot and Hastings call on Lord Edgware he informs them he agreed to the divorce in a letter six months earlier, and letter his wife claims to have never received.

   Then Lord Edgware is found murdered and Inspector Japp (John Turnbull) called in. Witnesses claim Lady Edgware appeared at the house, announced herself, entered the study, and murdered Lord Edgware, but then a quick investigation proves Lady Edgware was at a party, received a mysterious phone call, and could not have killed her husband.

   Just what is going on? Poirot proves someone could have impersonated Lady Edgware easily, but the suspect, an entertainer who did an imitation of Lady Edgware at the charity ball is found dead by her servant the next morning.

   There are suspects, Edgware’s daughter, a nephew Ronald Marsh who is something of a wastrel and needs the money and title he will inherit, a mysterious missing thirteenth guest at the party that provided Lady Edgware’s alibi, Lady Edgware’s servant who insisted she attend the party that provided her alibi, and any number of red herrings in the inimitable Christie style.

   Austin Trevor, who plays Poirot here, played more detectives in more British films than just about any other actor. In addition to Poirot he was Anthony Gethryn in The Nursemaid Who Disappeared and any number of British and French policemen on screen (he’s the policeman who tries to help Jean Simmons in So Long At the Fair some twenty years after this — Trevor played almost as many foreign as British detectives). Despite that he makes for an odd Poirot, tall, relatively handsome, with a full head of hair, no mustaches, a more reserved manner, and little eccentricity. Luckily with Christie involved in the screenplay Poirot’s keen mind is on full display if his eccentricity is not.

   As the case goes on it grows more complex. The Duke of Merton, a strongly religious man, who Lady Edgware wanted to marry it turns out would never marry her if she was divorced. He coolly dismisses Poirot and Hastings, but Poirot notes he is writing a love letter to her by reading it upside down on Merton’s desk.

   Carr plays Lady Edgware as a cross between Jean Harlow and Mae West, and quite effectively so there is more than some suspicion she could easily have murdered her husband, and might easily be as amoral as claimed, meanwhile that mysterious thirteenth guest features more importantly in the plot.

   Clues include a gold box holding sleeping powders, convex pence nez, and the torn page of a letter mailed by one victim to her sister in America.

   “Are you going to tell Japp about all of this?”

   “No, not yet, he would but say it was another nest of the mare.”

   Another victim is murdered while on the phone to Poirot about to reveal the murderer.

   “Oh, mon dieu, I’ve been blind, foolish. In an hour’s time we will all meet at the Barchester and I will tell you everything.”

   The solution is cleverly planned if hastily delivered.

   Poirot: “You tried to pull the wool over the eyes of Hercule Poirot.”

   Hastings: “And I’m hanged if we can have that.”

   The Killer: “Under the circumstances that’s a very tactless remark.”

   Nothing great here, but it is much better than reviews I’ve read and it moves interestingly at a clip. The mystery is fairly well done considering the limitations of the form, and Trevor and Carr overcome any drawbacks in the rest of the cast with energy and professionalism. If noting else it is worth seeing strictly from a historical point of view.