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Henrietta Winslow (Cecilia Loftus) is an old catlady who has been on
the verge of dying for years now. But because she's very rich, her
relatives' care, first and foremost her slimy son-in-law Montague (Basil
Rathbone), who has already invited buyers for her house and her furniture
- Gil (Broderick Crawford) and Mr Penny (Hugh Herbert) - to the mansion,
even though Henrietta isn't yet dead. Then though Henrietta does die in an
alleged accident, and only Gil thinks it was murder. All of her relatives
are in for a surprise though, because Henrietta has willed her estate and
her cats to her maid Abigail (Gale Sondergaard). After much to and fro,
Abigail is killed in what looks like a suicide, but this time Gil can
prove otherwise. Later an attempt is made on Montague's wife Myrna (Gladys
Cooper), and she blames it on the creepy gardener (Bela Lugosi), who is
chased around the premises and then shot by Myrna herself.
but Elaine (Anne Gwynne), the only good girl among Henrietta's relatives,
is not so sure, but when she confronts Myrna with her suspicions, she is
knocked out and dragged to the estate's crematorium through some secret
passageways, where Elaine plans to burn her alive.
Gil, who has long had
a soft spot for Elaine, searches for her frantically, but when he meets
Myrna in the crematorium, she claims she hasn't seen her. A cat's meow
from out of the burner makes her suspicious, but when he notices Myrna has
made it to the crematorium on a dry foot when it's pouring outside, he
figures she must have intimate knowledge of the place's secret passageways
as only a killer could, and in the ensuing struggle they have, Myrna
catches fire and burns to death. Gil on the other hand manages to save
Elaine, and they become a couple, of course.
One of these old
dark house flicks that has all the usual components: The eccentric rich
lady, her unusual will, the moneygrabbing relatives, an unidentified
killer, secret passageways, and of course the comedy relief (Hugh
Herbert). All of this could have made for an ok movie, but the film's plot
is just way too muddled to ever come to life properly. Plus the humour in
the film is too repetitive to add much amusement and interrupts the
proceedings a few times too often to really work.
Not a trainwreck of a
movie perhaps, but certainly one of the weaker old dark house mysteries of