Film Noir : Whodunit thread November 2016

Whodunit thread November 2016

It's high time I got the whodunit threads going again. It's been nearly two years since I've started one.

If you have seen any great whodunits, please post the titles along with comments. Radio play comments are welcome, too.



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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Adaptations of Mignon Eberhart novels

Generally I start out the whodunit watching season by watching the adaptations of Mignon Eberhart novels.

I watched four of them a couple of weeks ago (all of them from the thirties):

Murder by an Aristocrat - a family is being blackmailed by another family member, and this blackmailer is first found injured, then dead.

The White Cockatoo - a man stops in at an isolated hotel for a few nights, and he gets involved in some mysteries dealings (including murder)

Mystery House - a young woman is convinced that her father was murdered (that it wasn't suicide). She invites all the suspects to her country house (isolated, of course) for a weekend of hunting, along with a detective, in order to try to solve the mystery

While the Patient Slept - several family members arrive at the home of the patriarch, who suddenly becomes very ill and unconscious. Meanwhile, another guest is murdered...

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: The Case of the Howling Dog (1930s)

Of all the 1930s Perry Mason films, the first one in the series (The Case of the Howling Dog) is by far the best of them all. I just wish that the same thought and quality had been put into the other 5 Perry Mason films at that time.

The story begins when a young man comes to see Perry Mason about a will and a howling dog. The story is filled with quite a few twists and turns, including an excellent ending. Highly recommended.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: three Philo Vance mysteries

There are three Philo Vance mysteries which I make a point of watching once a year:

The Greene Murder Case: isolated house, a will, a matriarch, murdered family members...just the way I like it.

The Kennel Murder Case: definitely worth watching for the ending alone, and for Dr. Doremus' interesting speeches. Great storyline, with a complicated ending.

The Dragon Murder Case: a man dives into a pool and vanishes. Sounds like something John Dickson Carr might have written, but nope, this one is by S. S. Van Dine. (Actually, I did read another short story once about a man diving into a pool and vanishing, but I forget who wrote it. This film is based on a novel by Van Dine.) Be on the lookout for Dr. Doremus again.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: The Ninth Guest (1934)

The Ninth Guest (1934):

A number of guests, all connected to each other in some way, are invited to a penthouse suite for a party, only there doesn't appear to be a host and they start to get murdered one by one. I really suspect that this was the inspiration for Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

What's interesting is that this one isn't set in some isolated country house. It's set in a city, in an apartment building. Yet the feeling of isolated is captured so well...

Extremely far-fetched mystery, but still well worth a look.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Secret of the Blue Room (1933)

Secret of the Blue Room (1933):

Very scary film. A young woman is celebrating her 21st birthday with her father and with three men who are in love with her. Her father tells of some mysterious events which took place during several nights in the Blue Room of the home 20 years earlier. One of the young men suggests that the three of them (the three men) prove that they have courage by sleeping in that room, one each night. That's when things begin to happen.

I've seen two other versions of this film. I'll give them all another look and review them here.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: the two other versions of this film

There are two other versions of this film. All three are remakes of a German film which I'd love to see. I'm sure the German film is very spooky!

Anyhow, here are my thoughts:

The Missing Guest (1938): a reporter is sent to the house where the Blue Room is located, because this reported is expected to do a write-up on the 20 year old mystery which took place there. The story itself is very good, but the film is a bit ruined by some pretty annoying humor, especially in the first 5 to 10 minutes (or so). Otherwise, it's recommended.

Murder in the Blue Room (1944): this one's a nice musical, in which three silly but talented female performers are trying to solve the mystery of the Blue Room. The performances are great, and the behaviour of those three singers makes me think of the mystery-comedy The Mad Miss Manton (also recommended).

Neither movie is as scary as Secret of the Blue Room. Also, the plot of this film is a bit different than the plots of The Missing Guest and Murder in the Blue Room (those two have very similar plots).

My ranking of the three films:

1. Secret of the Blue Room - perfection (story, acting, pacing, mood).

2. Murder in the Blue Room - almost perfect, but not nearly dark enough for my liking.

3. The Missing Guest - good, but weakened by the type of "humor" which some scriptwriters back then thought was necessary for whodunits. I've seen other 1930s and 1940s whodunits ruined by this "humor" (which I call The Thin Man-style humor).

Now if I could only see the original German film....................

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Whodunit thread November 2016

Thanks for the titles.

Re: Whodunit thread November 2016

You're welcome! I sure hope that I can keep this thread going. Hopefully I'll remember to review any whodunit which I watch....

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Murder at the Vanities (1934)

I can't believe that I forgot to mention this film.

Murder at the Vanities - what a wonderful musical-mystery! The mystery is maybe a bit on the weak side, but the musical performances are terrific, especially leading actor Carl Brisson performing "Cocktails for Two" (a lovely post-Prohibition piece).

For those who want to see women wearing next to nothing, this is the film for you. This pre-Code film had scantily-clad women in a couple of the numbers.

Be on the lookout for Duke Ellington and his Orchestra in one performance. (By the way, this band went on to record "Cocktails for Two", although they didn't have anything to do with that song in this movie.)

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: a couple of early Charlie Chan films

Two early Charlie Chan films, both based on the novels:

The Black Camel: set in Hawaii, Charlie Chan tries to figure out who murdered an actress who was there to film a movie. He also tries to link this with a murder which had taken place a few years earlier.

Eran Trece: This is the Spanish language version of Charlie Chan Carries On. A man is murdered on a cruise ship. Soon after, it's discovered that the murder was a mistake, and more murders take place. I wish that more of these Spanish language films had been made, and I sure wish that the English language version of the story (starring Warner Oland) would turn up somewhere!

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Green for Danger (1946)

Green for Danger (1946): an old favourite of mine.

A murder takes place at a hospital during WWII in Britain. One of the nurses announces to the other doctors and nurses that she knows who committed the crime and how it was done. Shortly after, she is found murdered as well. An inspector (Alastair Sim) is called in to investigate the crimes committed. Great film with an excellent ending.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Green for Danger (1946)

I like to see Alastair Sim playing the detective in that one. And when he play the mysterious inspector in 'An Inspector Calls' which is a good twist on the whodunit/who is to blame theme.

Re: Green for Danger (1946); Alastair Sim

An Inspector Calls is fantastic. Very sad and powerful story. I heard that the play is even darker, since the young woman gets pregnant through rape. Not sure if this is true, because I haven't read the play.

Alastair Sim had a great supporting role in the 1930s mystery The Terror. Very overlooked mystery. He only has a small part in this movie, but I think that he steals the show.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Green for Danger (1946); Alastair Sim

I can remember seeing 'The Terror' where Alastair Sim is very animated but he controlled himself better in later roles. I think that he developed a chuckle similar to Sydney Greenstreet in some of his movies.

Alastair Sim in "The Terror"

Alastair Sim animated in The Terror? Well, he did pretend to be a minister in order to be admitted to the house. I've never thought of him as animated in those scenes. Maybe it's one way of looking at it. Personally, I love what he did there.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

The Mystery of Mr. X; The Ghost Camera

I'm watching two whodunit-thrillers tonight which I've seen before (both from the thirties):

The Mystery of Mr. X: a serial killer is on the loose, killing police officers. One of them is killed at the same time and at the same spot as where a thief is stealing a diamond. Soon after, the story in the news is that the man who has the diamond is the killer. The thief must do what it takes to save his own skin (it's shown near the start that he isn't the killer), and this includes proving that a suspect (the future son-in-law of a high-ranking police officer) is not guilty. Great film with a lot of interesting twists and turns.

The Ghost Camera: a man happens to wind up with someone else's camera. He develops the pictures and sees some surprising shots, including a picture of a murdered man. He decides to make it his business to solve the mystery by using the pictures to help him out. Very interesting film!

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Whodunit thread November 2016

Thank you for resurrecting the whodunit thread! A lot of titles I've never heard of and that sounds interesting... Keep it up :)

Re: Whodunit thread November 2016



I gave up these threads for awhile because I wasn't watching many movies last winter season. I'm back into mysteries now.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: The Terror; The Shadow

Two 1930s British mysteries:

The Terror: a couple of fellows are committing crimes (theft) for some leader whose face they've never seen. The leader betrays them and they're thrown into jail for a number of years. Once they're released, they vow to seek revenge on this faceless leader. All they know is that the leader is connected to the people living in an isolated country house. The film starts out as a gangster movie (first 10-15 minutes or so) and ends up as an isolated country house mystery. Alastair Sim steals the show here, as one of the two assistants.

The Shadow: someone calling him/herself "The Shadow" is blackmailing people, causing many of them to commit suicide. The story is set in an isolated country house where a head cop lives. He's trying to solve this case, and he has to deal with his family, plus some red herrings.

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See these films if you like the British 1930s isolated country house setting (blackmail, secret passages, red herrings, etc.) for mysteries. When I watch these, I keep wishing that more of the early Agatha Christie mysteries had been filmed in the thirties....oh well. Maybe someday Lord Edgware Dies (1934) will pop up somewhere! Wishful thinking.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: The Terror; The Shadow

I think that it's a shame that Agatha Christie's creepy house whodunits weren't filmed for the big screen more often. For some reason producers have thought her stories more suitable for British TV where her Miss Marple and Poirot mysteries are very popular.

Re: Agatha Christie, etc.

A lot of classic mysteries were done as TV series in the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and on. The TV series make sense because the same actors and sets can be used. Also, they can film a lot of the stories, or come up with their own storylines for those characters. They'd face a lot of restrictions if they tried to film all those stories for the big screen. I doubt that they'd be allowed to release several Agatha Christie adaptations each year for a number of years. They'd have to limit themselves to just the occasional film (for example, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile in the seventies).

It was different in the 30s and 40s when a lot of these mysteries were done as one-hour B-movies, aired after the main feature. At that time, there were a lot of Charlie Chan films done (each about an hour to 75 minutes long), with the same leading actors doing a number of the films. Same goes for detectives such as Philo Vance (1920s and 1930s), Ellery Queen (1930s and 1940s), Perry Mason (1930s), teacher Hildegarde Withers (1930s), Torchy Blane (1930s, if memory serves me right), etc. There is a series of film for each of those detectives. I just wish that more of the Agatha Christie mysteries had been filmed during that time. By the time many of them were being filmed (after her death), the filmmakers started with nonsense like transporting the characters to the 1980s, etc. Ugh.......

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Agatha Christie, etc.

That's good reasoning for Agatha Christie adaptations going missing on the big screen for such a long time. The 'Poirot' TV series with David Suchet seems to evoke an authentic 1930s atmosphere in them.

I still haven't seen the Agatha Christie story 'And Then There Were None' (1945) which is supposed to be the only real good big screen adaptation of hers. I have the 1965 version of it called 'Ten Little Indians' on DVD.

Re: Agatha Christie, etc.

The 1980s Russian version of And Then There Were None captures the overall mood, atmosphere, and they come close to getting the ending right. To me, the 1945 film is too lighthearted and they used what I think is the incorrect ending. In my opinion, the book's ending is the only REAL ending.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Agatha Christie, etc.

Thanks for letting me know about the Russian version of 'And Then There Was None.' I hope that I get to see that.

Re: Agatha Christie, etc.

Apparently there's also a modern version of the story, done as a miniseries. I've heard all sorts of contradictory reviews of that film. Someday I'll see it myself. Maybe.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Agatha Christie, etc.

I've just had a quick check on that 2015 mini-series that you referred to. With Charles Dance in it, that one sounds promising.

Re: Agatha Christie, etc.

I heard that there is also a porn version of And Then There Were None....

I think I'd rather NOT know how faithful it is to the novel.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Agatha Christie, etc.

I don't think I will try to catch the porn version of 'And Then There Was None.' I saw the 1974 version of it yesterday in a UK Drama channel Agatha Christie weekend.

It was tiled 'Ten Little Indians but I notice that they use the ATTWN tile for it here on IMDb. I know that I've heard the music that they use after each murder in it somewhere before, so I'm going to check the 1965 version of it to see if the same music was used in that.

Re: Agatha Christie, etc.

I have never been interested in seeing the 65 and 74 versions of that story. Maybe someday someone will film a faithful adaptation of the novel, with the correct ending and a horror feel to it.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Agatha Christie, "The Ninth Guest"

I was just discussing with someone else the 1934 film The Ninth Guest, which I really suspect was the inspiration for And Then There Were None. In this film, a bunch of guests are invited to a fancy penthouse suite for a party...and they start to get murdered off, one by one. I especially liked Donald Cook's performance, the way he tries to keep the guests calm, etc. Highly recommended!

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Agatha Christie, "The Ninth Guest"

'The Ninth Guest' sounds really good. I've just read your enthusiastic thread on the message boards for that film.

I must start checking all these old movies on Youtube. I always grab any of those 1930s mysteries if I see them on budget DVD if I can, but they seem to be very rare in that medium.

Re: Agatha Christie, "The Ninth Guest"

Better to find them on youtube or other places online.

I really don't know why these types of whodunits are so largely forgotten!

Of course, there are a lot of retro whodunits (like the David Suchet Poirot mysteries), but somehow, the ones actually filmed in the 20s, 30s, or 40s have their own charm.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: I watched again...

I just watched The Murder Man again, a film which I have already mentioned here.

It's a terrific movie. I hope it's one which you will find. It's well worth a look! Great cast as well - Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, Robert Barrat, etc.

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Proud to be Canadian! 🇨🇦

Re: Whodunit thread November 2016

MsELLERYqueen2, do you watch TV mystery series like Murdoch Mysteries (2008) and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (2012), that are set in much older times? And if so, what do you think of them? Just curious :)

Re: retro series

I haven't seen the ones you mentioned, but I have seen other retro series, such as the David Suchet Poirot mysteries, Ellery Queen (1970s), some of the Miss Marple mysteries, etc. Overall they're very well done, but of course sometimes they slip up with things like hairdos (they'll throw in a modern hairdo instead of one from the correct time period), etc. No big deal. I try to track down mysteries filmed in the 30s and 40s in order to get the authentic feel.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

The Unguarded Hour (1936)

The Unguarded Hour (1936):

Fantastic whodunit-thriller-courtroom drama. (It seems to be a bit of all three.)

Anyhow, the film starts out with a rich and high-profile couple hosting a party. The husband has a chance to move up in position in his job (he's a lawyer). At the party, the wife is blackmailed by a man whose wife was once involved with the ambitious lawyer (years before he was married). She agrees to meet him at a certain time and to receive instructions about where/when to drop off the money and where/when to get the letters which her hubby wrote many years earlier. When she arrives at the designated spot, she becomes a witness to something which becomes a big part of a murder trial her husband has to deal with. Also, later her hubby gets into a scrape of his own.

I don't want to say anything more because I don't want to include spoilers. I'll just say that the film has some great twists and turns, with a terrific ending IMHO.

This film really needs to be better known.

My only problem with this film is that it has a 10 minute stretch which should have been done in about 2 or 3 minutes. Other than that, it's perfection.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: The Verdict (1946)

The Verdict (1946):

I've already mentioned this film on the noir thread, but since it's a whodunit, I'll say a few words here as well about the whodunit part. This is a locked room mystery. A lady is murdered and an innocent man is sent to the gallows. Later, the lady's nephew is found murdered in his bed - a knife through his chest. All the windows and doors to his room were locked. How was this crime committed?

This film really has a terrific ending, one of the best.

I think my favourite mystery endings would have to be as follows:

The Verdict (1946)

The Kennel Murder Case (novel by S. S. Van Dine; film released in 1933)

The Door Between (novel by Ellery Queen)

The Three Coffins (novel by John Dickson Carr)

The Eye of Apollo (short story by G. K. Chesterton)

For anyone interested in locked room mysteries/impossible crimes, be sure to read stories by John Dickson Carr. He also wrote some great radio plays where are available on archive.org, as part of the Suspense series.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

They Call it Murder (1971)

They Call it Murder (1971):

It's been about 2 years since I've seen it. I thought that I'd give it another look.

This is the only Doug Selby mystery which has ever been filmed. This detective-D.A. was created by the Erle Stanley Gardner, who created Perry Mason. I would love to see all the Doug Selby mysteries in print again, and it would be nice if all of them could be filmed. I've only had the pleasure of reading a couple of the books which I was lucky enough to find.

This film is based on the novel The D.A. Draws a Circle (which I read once). It's a rather complicated story about multiple murders, characters involved in other shady deals, etc. Obviously I love Jim Hutton in the leading role, and I really liked Leslie Nielsen in a supporting role. He did a super job.

The film is a bit slow-moving at times, but still worth a look.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: The Murder Man (1935)

Currently watching the 1935 mystery-thriller The Murder Man, which revolves around the murder of a big-shot businessman and how a team of reporters handle reporting of the case, etc. Great cast, including Spencer Tracy, Virginia Bruce, James Stewart, and Robert Barrat.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: The Murder Man (1935)

All I can say about this film (besides the fact that it's fantastic) is that Spencer Tracy should have received acting noms, especially for his work in the final 15 minutes of the movie.

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: four films based on Edgar Wallace novels

Four films based on Edgar Wallace novels:

First viewings:

The Human Monster (1930s, also known as The Dark Eyes of London)

The Door With Seven Locks (1940)

Multiple viewings:

The Terror (1930s, already reviewed on this thread)

Before Dawn (1933)

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: Before Dawn (1933)

I keep forgetting to review Before Dawn on this thread. This one's highly recommended for those who like the following: isolated house, secret passage (and this one has something extra added to it), sinister characters, a lot of money stashed somewhere in the house, and fortune tellers. It should be obvious early on who the culprit is, but it's still a fun film to watch. Great to see Warner Oland play a character other than Charlie Chan!

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: The Ninth Guest

The Ninth Guest is a great mystery. It's one of those great films with people stuck somewhere and slowly being killed off, and they have to ask themselves is one of them a murderer? Or are they not as alone as they thought?

It strongly reminds me of And Then There Were None, but really interestingly, pre-dates it. It even gets a little creepy at parts.

It's one film that I think is a real shame has been largely forgotten.

Re: The Ninth Guest, etc.

I'm completely convinced that Agatha Christie got ideas from this film for the novel And Then There Were None.

The Ninth Guest, by the way, is based on a mystery novel, which I was lucky enough to find and read. The movie is quite faithful to the original source material. The story is extremely far-fetched, but that's what makes it all the more interesting.

I agree that The Ninth Guest is creepy at times. It's also well acted, especially by Donald Cook, whom I've seen in other mystery films and whom I like. (He also had a supporting role in the 1933 movie Baby Face.)

Honestly, I don't know why this film isn't better remembered. It's such a terrific mystery...far more atmospheric and horrific than the 1940s version of And Then There Were None!

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Re: The Ninth Guest, etc.

I just agreed to do a film exchange with a friend (we each watch movies that the other recommended) and I've given them The Ninth Guest just to start spreading the number of people who've seen it!

Interesting to know it's based on a book...need to see if I can't find it myself. Would love to read that

Re: The Ninth Guest, etc.

I hope your friend enjoys it! Is he/she a mystery lover?

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

"The Murderer Lives at Number 21" (1940s French)

The Murderer Lives at Number 21....

...my second or third viewing. Great whodunit-thriller. Only some of the humor during the first part of the film is a bit annoying. Otherwise, excellent story with a terrific ending.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034478/?ref_=nv_sr_1

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

"The Crime Nobody Saw" (1937)

The Crime Nobody Saw (1937)....written by Ellery Queen, but this whodunit doesn't feature their most famous detective.

Great whodunit about several authors hired to write a play. They are struggling with this assignment in an apartment. Then, things start to happen with their neighbors....

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028748/?ref_=nv_sr_1

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =

Grizzly's Millions (1940s)

Grizzly's Millions....a rich older relative is murdered, and his granddaughter becomes a suspect. I've seen this before. It's a good isolated house mystery, with a scary-looking deep plunge into a river (on the rich man's property), with only a very difficult way across it.......

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037752/?ref_=nv_sr_1

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Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =
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