MURDER BY INVITATION. Monogram, 1941. Wallace Ford, Marian Marsh, Sarah Padden, Gavin Gordon, George Guhl, Wallis Clark, Minerva Urecal, J. Arthur Young, Herbert Vigran. Director: Phil Rosen.


   This Monogram mystery (calling it a B movie would be kind) is another entry in the “dark old house” genre. Reporter Bob White (Wallace Ford) investigates a series of murders at a spooky old house full of secret passages, sliding pictures, greedy relatives, and eyes looking secretly into the room.

   I kept expecting to see Abbot and Costello walk through the door at any moment. Rich Aunt Cassandra’s relatives dragged her into court and tried to have her declared incompetent so that they could gain control of her fortune, but the judge found in her favor even though she likes vinegar on her apple pie.

   So she invites all her relatives spend a week with her at her country mansion so she can decide which one will get the bulk of her estate. But no sooner do they arrive at midnight than one of them is stabbed to death (“She must have seen The Cat and the Canary,” quips White’s secretary when she hears about the midnight invitation).

   When reporter White arrives with his secretary and photographer he is welcomed into the murder scene (yes, a fantasy film…). No sooner does he arrive than the body disappears and another one appears in its place, and then that one disappears also.

   (In an aside Wallace Ford addresses the audience and says that you know you are past the halfway point in a mystery movie when the bodies have disappeared — and this movie is more than half over).

   This is a really goofy movie, not to be taken seriously, but fun to watch. At the end as Bob White starts a long, long kiss with his secretary, the camera pans over to Eddie the photographer and he says something like “The Hays Office isn’t going to like this…”

Rating:   C minus.