Wednesday, October 13, 2010
31 Days of Halloween - Day 13 - Movie 1
The Secret of the Blue Room (1933) is one of Universal's non-horror horror movies. It's a locked room mystery in the same creepy old house subgenre as The Cat and the Canary and seemingly a million other movies from that time. It has many of the elements of being a horror movie (spooky old castle, mysterious figure, secret passages, stormy night, murders and plenty of atmosphere) without actually being one.
On Irene's (Gloria Stuart) 21st birthday, a tale is told of the mysterious blue room in the castle she lives in with her father. She doesn't know the story. Twenty years ago, a series of three tragedies all ending in death happened in that room, all at 1:00 am. The room has been locked since, but Tommy (William Janney) wants to stay in that room over night to prove his bravery to Irene, whom he loves and wants to marry. Two men in competition with Thomas, Frank (Onslow Stevens) and Walter (Paul Lukas) also agree to this scheme and will stay in the blue room on successive nights no matter what happens. On the first night Tommy vanishes and his body cannot be found. on the second night Frank is shot dead. The police are now brought in and the secret of the blue room, among many others, is finally uncovered.
I have a soft spot for these creaky, creaky old house mysteries, though most of them are pretty intolerable, but The Secret of the Blue Room is rather exceptional for this type of movie. Yes, the plot is very familiar, and there are many likely suspects among the staff, guests, and even Irene's father (Lionell Atwill). The movie, only 66 minutes long, and shot on a minimal budget moves along at a pretty brisk pace and does keep you intrigued and guessing all along. The cast is excellent and it's nice to see so many familiar faces in early roles. The solution, when it arrives is surprising and does not feel contrived at all.