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