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The Case of the Frightened Lady

UK 1940
produced by
S.W. Smith for George King Productions/British Lion
directed by George King
starring Marius Goring, George Merritt, Penelope Dudley-Ward, Helen Haye, Patrick Barr, Ronald Shiner, Felix Aylmer, Roy Emerton, George Hayes (II), John Warwick, Torin Thatcher, Elizabeth Scott
screenplay by Edward Dryhurst, based on the play by Edgar Wallace, music by Jack Beaver

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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After a costume party, Studd (John Warwick), the shady driver of the even shadier Doctor Amersham (Felix Aylmer) is found murdered, strangled with an Indian scarf. Clues seem to lead either to Tilling (Torin Thatcher), whose wife (Elizabeth Scott) Studd had an affair with, or to Amersham himself, but inspector Tanner (George Merritt) soon picks up a trail to the mansion of the Lebanons, which widowed Lady Lebanon (Helen Haye) rules with an iron hand, having subdued her son William (Marius Goring), heir of the Lebanon fortune, to her will, and wanting him to her private secretary Isla (Penelope Dudley-Ward), just because she also has Lebanon blood in her, and above all else, Lady Lebanon wants to continue the bloodline (she herself, having married her cousin, is a Lebanon not only by marriage but also by blood).

Somehow though, Lady Lebanon seems to have some unhealthy relationship with Doctor Amersham, who seems to blackmail her but who has a dark past himself, a past that includes forgery and even murder. What's more, Tanner finds a collection of Indian scarves in Amersham's office, and William blasts his alibi for the time of the murder Lady Lebanon has provided.

But when everything seems to point to Amersham, he is found murdered, strangled by an Indian scarf. It's back to square one then, right? Not quite, because Tanner finds the mansion is riddled by secret passageways, and Lord Lebanon has not really died but has gone insane and is now kept in a secret padded room in the mansion. Tanner decides to put up a trap for the murder, whoever he might be, using Isla as bait ... and the murderer turns out to be - William Lebanon, who always seemed to be the most harmless person on the planet, but who has taken to murdering when he was stationed in India, a fact Amersham had blackmailed Lady Lebanon with, and was now planning to make it a habit here in England. When he finds himself cornered though, he shoots himself dead, to end the bloodline that has long been riddled with insanity once and for all.

 

More or less your typical Edgar Wallace mystery: An over-convoluted story full of far-fetched plottwists, old dark house-motives and other pulp mainstays, and red herrings aplenty. If you're somehow familiar with the way Wallace structures his mysteries, it's easy to guess the murder early on. On a directorial level, this film seems a tad old-fashioned even for 1940, and rather stagey in approach, but that somehow works for the movie, which after all is an old-fashioned murder mystery.

This all doesn't exactly make Case of the Frightened Lady a masterpiece (far from it, actually), but decent old-fashioned genre entertainment nevertheless.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD