THE MANDARIN MYSTERY. Republic Pictures, 1936. Eddie Quillan (Ellery Queen), Charlotte Henry, Rita La Roy, Wade Boteler (Inspector Queen), Franklin Pangborn, George Irving, Kay Hughes, William Newell. Based on the novel The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen. Director: Ralph Staub. 

Currently streaming on Amazon Prime and YouTube (see below, but I think the running time on the latter has been cut).

   Remarkably enough, the actor who plays Ellery Queen in the bottom basement of a movie has the same initials, but alas he has absolutely no other credentials for playing the role. Eddie Quillan had a long successful career in making movies and in television, but in The Manadarin Mystery he plays the part of Ellery Queen as a brainless twit, more interested in getting a date with the girl in the leading role than solving a mystery.

   The girl being Charlotte Henry as Josephine Temple, owner of a rare, one-of-a-kind Chinese stamp worth thousands of dollars, and that was back in 1936. Obviously with a small piece of paper worth that kind of money, there are many others who wouldn’t mind having their hands on it, and one of them does so badly that they don’t mind committing a couple of murders to accomplish it.

   The movie follows the book, sort of, with a dead man found in a room with with his jacket on backwards and held upright with two long poles through his clothes. But with a running time of just over an hour, there’s no way to stuff all the complexities of the original text in, and the whole affair ends up being, in technical terms, a muddled mess.

   I can’t tell you to whom this movie was meant to appeal to, but it certainly wasn’t those who read and enjoyed the early day Ellery Queen books, written about strange mysterious affairs, true, but with clues and alibis that really meant something.

   Nothing at all like that here. Only cheap banter and little more. When I say “avoid,” I mean it.