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  • This is a good little thriller from the beginnings of sound. The only real problems it has are due to the era it was made, one when music wasn't a standard part of talkies, so the pace can seem a bit slow.

    The plot concerns a murder during an elaborate game of charades. The bullets fired aren't blanks and as a result no one is playing dead. Of course since the game was taking place during a very fancy party everyone is a suspect. A neat twist is that any of the stereotypical scenes of the detective bringing everyone together are at the beginning of the movie, well before the denouncement.

    The dialog is witty and the mystery keeps your interest, which is a big plus. I'm reasonably certain that the mystery is played pretty fairly which is nice since many times in B- movies the murderer comes out of left field.

    Despite this not listing as available on video, Alpha Video does have it as a double feature with the very short Moonstone, and the pair makes a nice evenings viewing.
  • The mystery story in "Murder at Midnight" is an interesting one, with some good plot turns, plenty of suspects, and a competition between the police and some amateur sleuths to see who can solve the case first. The story is good enough to make up for the rest of the production, which is routine or somewhat weak in several other respects.

    The story starts cleverly, with a murder committed in the course of a party game, and the scenario is well-written, maintaining the tension and interest all the way to the finale. There are clues and suspects in abundance, and most of the details fit together pretty well. As another reviewer has observed, it gives you a fair chance to figure things out yourself. If the rest of the production had been up to the level of the story, this might have been one of the classics of its era.

    Some of its weaknesses are simply the common ones of the early 1930s: the irregular pacing and the distracting background, which unfortunately keep the script's rather snappy dialogue from working better. It also could have been improved if more attention had been given to the atmosphere, and with a somewhat stronger cast. The best performance comes from Clara Blandick as a cantankerous aunt, but the rest of the cast is mostly undistinguished, although Aileen Pringle and Alice White are both quite pleasant too look at.

    Nevertheless, it's still well worth seeing, at least if you enjoy movies of its era, because the story really is a good one for its genre. With some improvements, it could have been quite good.
  • Frank R. Strayer directs this well acted 1931 who-done-it. What people won't do to have fun at a party. Accidental murder probably is a party pooper every time...but you can't say it isn't interesting. Way back when...a good party starter was a tame little game of charades. One particular night a staged murder in a game of charades turns to the real thing. The bullets weren't blank...leaving a man dead. The mood of the party guests takes on disbelief and a little paranoia. Inspector Taylor(Robert Elliott)puts the gathering of friends and lovers through their paces in search of the murderer's identity. Is it Lawrence, the butler(Brandon Hurst); Colton, the lawyer(William Humphrey); the maid(Alice White)or Aunt Julia(Clara Blandick)? Put disputed inheritance and infidelity in the mix...why wouldn't murder be the result? A long, heavy rainstorm could have made for better atmosphere; but all- in-all the 67 minutes running time is not wasted.
  • This is another decent poverty row offering from Frank R. Strayer, the director of The Ghost Walks and Condemned To Live. It's a whodunit concerning the whereabouts of a missing letter that pertains to the will of a recently murdered man. While there really isn't anything overly of interest here, the mystery is compelling enough to keep fans of 1930's mysteries entertained. It follows the conventions of the old dark house mysteries that were so popular at the time, and it doesn't exactly break the mould. It has a typical convoluted plot-line. Like many films of its type, this one is pretty stagey too, with some stiff acting throughout. Although there is some imaginative cinematography and the audio is very clear. The tone of the film is generally light, with not much in the way of thrills. Although it does introduce death by telephone! But if you are a fan of creaky old mysteries I think you could well enjoy this early talkie.
  • Occasionally clever little early 30s multiple-murder mystery, with a killer stalking the Kennedy household and knocking off a half dozen victims. The cops don't seem especially perturbed by the continual corpses lying around and aren't very good at getting to the bottom of the mystery. Lots of telephone cord cutting and such; good example of how the telephone became the mystery writer's best friend.

    The plot concerns a letter fingering the killer, which comes to light after a game of charades goes bad (after seeing this and The Death Kiss, I have some advice: do not agree to be shot by a gun filled with blanks during the 1930s). The head of the household, maid, the butler, and who-knows-who-else also fall victim to the clever murderer bent on getting his hands on the letter.

    The acting is stagy and old-fashioned, but occasionally sharp and witty, and Alice White as the house maid Millie is a doe-eye peach. An absence of music makes this seem rather duller than it should be. It's okay if you like the genre and era, but it's not something to seek out.
  • This is prototypical whodunit. It has atmosphere, interesting characters with personality flying all over the place, hard nut police detectives, most of whom aren't very smart, and that air of snobbery. The film begins with a shooting during a game of charades, where a gun, supposedly holding blanks, proves the undoing of one of the characters, a man who changed his will at the last moment because he sensed danger. A loudmouth detective shows up on the scene and treats everyone like dirt. He shouts in their faces and tries to intimidate. The people at the mansion are upper crust and resent his invasions. Mixed in are a nervous wreck, a cute maid, a stodgy butler, a matriarch, and several other figures who could have participated. There are also some interesting dealings with the telephone (which I won't reveal). The pacing is pretty good and the ending is acceptable. One character who cracked me up was a policeman who spent the whole movie guarding people and eating peanuts in the shell. There's a great scene where the butler brings him a large bowl because he has been tossing the shells on the floor. The cop, puts the peanuts that were in his pocket, into the bowl, then continues to throw the peanut shells on the floor. It's a nice little story and worth watching.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Murder at Midnight" starts with a game of charades - one of the participants has been murdered and then the killings start.

    Aileen Pringle (who was a star of the 20s and had an affair with H.L. Mencken) is the star.

    Leslie Fenton (an actor I always liked) played Walter Grayson.

    The thing I couldn't get over was adorable Alice White. She played Millie the maid. She had about three lines. She may have been 2nd in the cast - more like 22nd in importance. I have adored Alice White for so long - I was really looking forward to seeing her in this film - any film. In 1930 her star was riding high - what happened?? I know she was involved in some scandals but I thought that was later in her career. She is much better served in "Employees' Entrance" - where she really shines and her charms are put to good use.
  • Do you like 'whodunnits'? The other kind is a 'cat-and-mouse' picture, wherein the killer is known from the outset. I don't like those but am a sucker for a 'whodunnit', especially a well made one. "Murder at Midnight" is a whodunnit although a primitive one, but it holds your interest throughout - but just barely at times due to the ice-cutter pacing. Was thrown off somewhat by the lack of a music track, something we have become used to as the sound era wore on.

    Hadn't seen Alice White before but will look for her from now on - cute as the proverbial button. Thought Aileen Pringle was a dead ringer for Ruth Chatterton, and that the film was helped a great deal by several distinguished actors in tuxedos. Makes you think what a shame it is that men rarely wear tuxes anymore except at weddings.

    I'm trying to get through my gift box of old mysteries on DVD and I am always appreciative when I come to one worth the time to view it, as opposed to scads of 'quota quickies' and poorly made B's. I gave "Murder at Midnight a rating of 7, because it is a cut above.
  • The opening shots of this film are blurry with undefined shapes and objects, however suddenly a light is switched on and the change in lighting brings about sharper and more detailed images. The lighting techniques in the opening sequence are an indication of things to come in the film. It is an early experiment with lighting and varying the contrast levels from shot to shot. In some shots there are plenty of grey hues and details are easy to make out, while in other shots the faces and clothes of the characters are blown out to white. The blowing out to white is used most effectively when Aileen Pringle is interrogated by investigations - as her facial features can hardly be made out, it is hard for us as viewers to tell whether or not she is lying.

    However, other than interesting lighting and camera techniques, the rest of the film is pretty flat. The mystery at the heart of the film is intriguing, but it is never really involving since the film lacks strong character development. Robert Elliott plays his hard-boiled detective as a one-dimensional stereotype too, which makes it hard to want to root for him and his desire to solve the mystery at hand. As an early sound film, the audio quality is not too great, with a bit too much atmospheric sound and perhaps some music could have helped. However, the timing of when a character says "and he fired" followed by a bang, and the timing between dialling for the police and a sudden siren sound, show that some thought was indeed put into what the film was going to sound like it. It is a flawed film, but other than a blatantly contrived ending it makes quite satisfactory viewing, and the lighting work is simply fascinating.
  • Rainey-Dawn3 September 2016
    This one is a bit fun to watch - some likable characters, fun little mystery to try to solve while watching.

    You have a huge mansion, several party guests, a game of charades turns deadly and a few murders! Police arrive almost early or a little too late to the scene of the crime/crimes and can be bungling idiots at times - which adds some comedic elements to the story unfolding.

    This one is your typical, average whodunit of the 1930s but still quite a but fun to watch. This film was remade into The Mystery of Mr. Wong starring Boris Karloff - and I'll admit that I like the Karloff/Wong version better than this original - but the original is fun, as I already mentioned.

  • "A sophisticated party held in an old mansion goes horribly wrong when a gun used during a parlor game contains real bullets instead of blanks. When the shooter ends up dead, the police and guests realize that the first death was no accident and that they have a killer in their midst," according to the DVD sleeve's synopsis. The opening scene is good, with butler Brandon Hurst (as Lawrence) moving up the hands on a grandfather clock, cuing Aileen Pringle (as Esme Kennedy) and Robert Ellis (as Duncan Channing) to act out their "Murder at Midnight" charade. From then on, it works if you can imagine Groucho Marx is playing "Inspector Taylor". Robert Elliott, who does plays the part, even has some of Mr. Marx' vocal tones.

    **** Murder at Midnight (8/1/31) Frank Strayer ~ Robert Elliott, Aileen Pringle, Leslie Fenton
  • Kenneth Thomson shoots another man in a game of Charades; it turns out to be loaded with bullets, not blanks. Soon, slow, stolid Inspector Robert Elliott is on the scene, and the bodies begin to mount up.

    There are several problems with this movie, ranging from sheer goofs (there's a phone call to an outside line when the line has been cut), weird plot points that are never explained (why the time on the grandfather clock was advanced an hour -- and why it did not chime as it was done), and why the print was so faded. The most annoying problem, however, is Mr. Elliott's performance. It's slow and portentous and gives the entire movie a plodding pace. It's surprising, given that the director is Frank Strayer, an expert in well-timed farces. There are a couple of shots that show his sense playfulness, like the houseguest reading a detective story magazine, starting at a noise. However, Mr. Elliott casts such a pall on the film that it becomes annoying.
  • "Murder at Midnight" from 1931 is a mystery starring Aileen Pringle, Alice White, Hale Hamilton, Robert Elliott, and Clara Blandick.

    During a game of charades at a party, a gun shooting blanks shoots real bullets and a man is killed. A police inspector (Elliott) is brought in and accuses everyone during the course of the film. But he has to contend with the fact that there are four more murders as well.

    Nevertheless there are plenty of suspects - according to an attorney, there's a missing letter written by the first person who was murdered. He had some concerns for his safety, with good reason.

    This looks like a film stage play, as early films like this often did; the rhythm of the dialogue is off due to no music, and also the actors just getting used to sound.

    I interviewed Aileen Pringle about 30 years ago for a book project. She was no help, but I bet she had some fantastic stories.

    The one who makes the biggest impression in this film is Alice White who plays the maid. She was a film star who fell on hard times after a sex scandal - today that would have boosted her career. Back then it didn't help. It's easy to see why she was a star at one time - she was very appealing.

    The rest of the acting is stiff, but the story has a nice twist to it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This early-talkie whodunit has an attention-grabbing start (a game of charades develops into a real murder), but it's mostly a stiff slog after that. There is the odd striking camera shot (including one from the POV of the murderer), but the arrangements of the actors are too theatrical, and the complete absence of a music score makes the dead spots even deader: the length feels more like 166 than 66 minutes! However, I do recommend sticking with it, because the culprit is truly surprising. The reason for that is that the culprit is a typical character of this genre, who in about 90% of such films has other functions, excluding that of the killer. The screenwriter turns some conventions on their head - before they had even become conventions. ** out of 4.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    During an incredibly elaborate game of charades, a man shoots a friend of his with a gun he thinks has blanks. Alas, no - someone substituted real bullets. Murder after murder occurs until the quite unusual ending which surprised me and given the countless mysteries I have watched or read, that's saying something. Leslie Fenton and especially Clara Blandick as the aunt did good jobs but the rest of the cast not so much. While the Inspector had a couple of snappy lines, overall the film was humorless. There was a dumb cop who was a rude slob who kept throwing his peanut shells on the floor. I certainly don't regret watching the movie but except for the surprise of who the culprit was, I won't remember anything about the movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Coming almost directly out of the silent era, "Murder at Midnight" might be said to suffer from one of the common complaints of early talkies - the picture more closely resembles a stage play put to film, with the actors and actresses over-enunciating and abruptly deliberate in their mannerism and speech. Getting beyond that though, you have an entertaining mystery given the era, with dead bodies piling up at a rapid pace. I thought it was interesting that when Inspector Taylor (Robert Elliott) first arrived at the Kennedy home, he wanted to see the two corpses - the phone call to the police station tipped him. But the second murder was committed while he was there! Very clever!

    By the time it's all over, the body count hits a rather high count of five, and all from within the same house! The picture uses the old lights out trick, the black gloved hand coming in from off screen, and a couple instances of phone lines being cut, which was a bit of a puzzler, since a phone is still operative near the end of the story. I couldn't help thinking that Charlie Chan might be just around the corner to lend a hand in solving the mystery; he might have done it without pretty maid Mille (Alice White) and butler Lawrence (Brandon Hurst) being dispatched - I was sad to see them both go.

    The biggest surprise though was the revelation of the killer - It's the only time in a movie I've seen where the murderer gives himself away by killing himself!!! Pretty neat wrap up for the Inspector who earned his pay in this one, while his inept subordinate couldn't stop eating peanuts!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Nice beginning, a murder as a charade--that's something interesting. A simulated/real murder theme has been done in different guises: in a play, a movie, on TV, now as part of a game. And, that's just to start things off. By the time the police arrive, there's another murder.

    It seems that the second victim, Jim Kennedy (Kenneth Thomson) had just changed his will earlier that day, disinheriting his wife Esme (Aileen Pringle). The chief suspects in both murders are Millie, a maid (Alice White), Walter (Leslie Fenton) and Esme (both of whom lost out from the change in the will), and Phillip (Hale Hamilton). Events at once get simpler and more complicated, as Millie turns up dead.

    It's kind of odd to experience a movie without music; can't expect much technology for 1931. Still, in a mystery, music can thicken the atmosphere. In Midnight Murder. there's an appropriate old dark house, some silhouetted figures on walls here and there, even a skull on a desk. But what atmosphere does lurk about is shredded by the Inspector's (Robert Elliot's) presence. When he says anything, it's like words. This guy's delivery is so wooden, given in such a studied monotone, that you wish the movie weren't a talkie after all.

    In a murder mystery, the character of the policeman/detective is a key role. Since the whole point of a murder mystery is to find out who's the killer, we want the guy representing reason and order (and therefore society in general) to be a substantial presence. There's cop portrayals that are blunt, annoying, fastidious, paternalistic, moody, wise-cracking, loopy, and any combination of these traits. Just don't have a dull cop. There's even one very clever '30s murder mystery (I'll figure out which title, hopefully) in which the 'police detective' turns out to be a guy who escaped from an asylum. Now, that works.

    I forgot that we're up to four murders now, as the butler gets it next. "This isn't a murder case, it's an epidemic" remarks the Inspector. Esme's Aunt Julia (Clara Bendick) finds Jim's will and an incriminating letter. Hmm. So Phillip was having an affair with Esme. Phillip keels over, as the phone he was on was booby-trapped. But he had rigged it up himself. He intended to fake a call that would kill the Inspector (due to the receiver triggering a deadly device into the listener's ear--a bullet?).

    But, the Inspector, picking up the receiver, feels that it's been tampered with, and hands it to Phillip. Phillip can't not 'take the call' without incriminating himself, so he gambles and takes it. He loses. He was the murderer. I had to watch this scene a couple of times to get it (more or less).

    It's plausible that Phillip would gamble on the pretend call because the device hadn't worked on Julia, who had just 'answered' the first fake call before the Inspector arrived. She was his real target anyway, as he gains nothing by killing the Inspector. What's still bugging me is--why not show hat Phillip puts in the receiver--I'm saying it's a bullet both because there's bullets laying about here and there; plus I suppose it's not too far-fetched that the vibration in the receiver's ear piece could set the bullet off.

    Murder At Midnight starts and ends well, but pretty much does a Titanic-like sinking in the long middle part. The Inspector's character was only the most notable of many less-than-strong performances. It was hard to differentiate the characters, their roles, and even their motives. No one was really interesting here. The script was actually good, and there's more than a few good lines.

  • opieandy-18 January 2018
    Like so many movies of this era, the movie moves at a snail's pace with no soundtrack whatsoever. The story is fun and clever. Who knew vacuum cleaners haven't changed that much in 87 years?
  • pdutram3 September 2006
    The DVD case says this is a Tiffany picture, so I was expecting an interesting presentation. The credits don't mention Tiffany, laying the blame instead on Amity Pictures. The film looks good, advanced cinematography for the times. The 1931 audio is lousy. Other than the obvious charms of the beautiful Alice White, who plays the maid we'd all like to have, there is no good reason to seek out this old stage play about murder in the mansion. Clara Blandick has the plum role as old Aunt Julia, foil for deadpan Robert Elliott's Inspector Taylor. Headliner Aileen Pringle isn't given much to do. As for who did it, you can see it coming almost from the very first scene. Still, pre-1935 Alice White might be reason enough to watch.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Question: What happened to all the quickly obsolete sound gear that the first talkies used? Answer: It was given to Tiffany for nothing, provided they hauled it away. And that's why this movie looks like it was made two years earlier. Indeed it has all the characteristics of the early sound films. The trite plot serves merely as an excuse for all the actors to stand around in stiff attitudes and – in stentorian voices – talk, talk, talk! Also exhibited here is a 1928-29 fascination with sound effects, such as the noise of a vacuum cleaner, the ringing of a phone, the chiming of a clock, the firing of a pistol, etc. All of these effects are heard in isolation and are not mixed with other background noise. The dialogue itself has all been recorded from a sound-proof booth, resulting in not only the constant hampering of camera movement but diffusing of the screen image as a result of being photographed through glass. Director Frank Strayer is unable to use reverse angles – they would double the production cost – but he has attempted to impart a bit of movement to the film by occasionally employing a silent, mobile camera. There are often two or three extended crane shots at the beginning of sequences and maybe four or five imaginative set-ups. Alas, the acting is as dismal as the dialogue. On the other hand, the cast does have curiosity value (and this is almost the film's sole point of interest). Most of the players assembled here are old silent stars down on their luck. Most of them, alas, are past their prime in looks (Aileen Pringle looks at least ten years older than her biographical age), but Alice White, star of the original "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", still looks quite fetching. Good on you, Alice! But we can't understand the director's obvious reluctance to let her speak. Alas, when she finally opens her mouth, the effect is rather like that of the so-called "fictitious" silent star in "Singin' in the Rain". Understandably, Alice is allowed only a few lines before she is disappointingly bumped off. And yes, production values are more extensive than we might expect from Tiffany, but still relatively modest.
  • chaypher6 August 2013
    Warning: Spoilers
    The story opens from an elaborate party-game of charades gone wrong, into a murder, via the switching of blank bullets for live ones. Enter the ever-bumbling detectives. Of course everyone present is a suspect. Thus the suspicion and subsequent murders ensues. A letter and will from the victim goes missing and the police expend an awful lot of energy trying to discover their whereabouts. This is because finding them can save the police from a lot of honest detective work! Eventually it is discovered that one of the main murder weapons was a phone with a concealed blade! Of course, this is exploited in finally revealing the identity of the killer. Although this monotonous murder mystery begins quite promisingly, it fails to fully develop into anything that interesting. There are a couple of relatively original plot twists, but these are far and few between enough to make this feel like it plods on at a snail's pace. The directing and camera-work are capable but the cast give wholly underwhelming performances. All in all, this movie would suit the avid fan of 30's murder mysteries, but for the rest of us, there is little to keep us hooked. At least this one doesn't involve a man in a gorilla suit!
  • bkoganbing13 January 2012
    Does anyone remember Abbott&Costello's film Who Done It where the boys play soda jerks who are trying to get a script played on a radio mystery broadcast show? The show was also entitled Murder At Midnight and watching I got the feeling we saw the complete show which was so rudely interrupted by a murder or three in the A&C feature.

    This Murder At Midnight has a party going and at the midnight hour a parlor game of charades is interrupted when the wealthy fires a gun that unbeknownst to him contains live rounds and kills his secretary. That brings in the cops, but it doesn't stop the murders as a few more bodies pile up in this film as well.

    Robert Elliott plays the long arm of the law and he also has noted criminologist Hale Hamilton along for any aid and assistance. Most of the aid and assistance is supplied by Clara Blandick the dowager aunt of the rich man who keeps pointing out all the shortcomings of law enforcement. It all has to do with a change in a will and some hanky panky going on.

    Murder At Midnight moves kind of slow though. Maybe the uninterrupted broadcast would have been better in Bud and Lou's film.
  • I'm a fan of this genre, and even I had trouble watching this film through to the end. After quite a bit of pausing on YouTube to do other things, eventually I did. This is an early talkie, and it shows. The plot drags, and much of the dialog is stilted. Some scenes come right off the stage, with that 'stand around and talk' feeling you get from plays of the era. There are multiple murders, but I found it difficult to care as each suspect was killed. I think the biggest problem was the lack of charismatic characters, either detectives or villains. Imagine an early Charlie Chan film without Charlie. There wasn't even the Dark Old House element to keep this one interesting. I think if it had been made three years later, it would have been significantly better.

    As I said, I did watch this one, and if you're a fan of the 1930s murder mystery genre, it's worth a look. Some other reviewers clearly think more of it than I do, so you may find it more appealing than me. I just find it a big step down from The Kennel Murder Case and The Dark Hour.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When this film first began, I thought the acting was just terrible. However, it turned out that it was supposed to sound stilted as you were watching a play and didn't know it. Then, when one actor shoots the other something strange happens—it's no longer acting but real. It seems that someone replaced the blanks in the gun with live bullets and the man is killed in the middle of this play. Soon, more folks start showing up dead and it's up to some of the dumbest police I've ever seen in a B-mystery movie to solve the crime—which turns out to be related to a change in a will and a wife who is unfaithful.

    So, is it worth seeing? Well, no. I've seen a ton of cheap B-movies from the 1930s and there is nothing to make this one stand out from the crowd. In fact, the cliché of having a dumb cop investigating is taken amazingly far, as this cop (until the inexplicable ending where he shows some intelligence) is a total moron. This and an overall dullness to the film make this one not particularly engaging or new. A slow time-passer at best and no more.

    By the way, if you are going to murder someone, doesn't having them shot in the play seem rather odd. After all, the odds of the actor shooting the other in a fatal location isn't super-high. Oh, well...never mind.