2 December 2011 | csteidler
Unassuming mystery with fun cast, plenty of laughs
With a roomful of suspects listening tensely, police detective Frank McHugh reads aloud a letter that may identify the killer known as the Black Ace. Suddenly the lights go out. There are shrieks and shouts. When the lights come back on, the letter has vanished! –No, it's not the most original plot ever, but good humor and engaging performances still make this a fun little picture.
Chester Morris is a crime writer researching a book on the Black Ace, the elusive criminal who always leaves a black ace warning his victims they are soon to die. Morris visits Henry Stephenson, a well-known expert on the subject in hopes of joining forces. Vivienne Osborne is the plucky daughter of Stephenson's secretary; her father is an early victim. These three stars give solid, efficient performances.
The real central figures of the picture, however, are dubiously capable detectives Frank McHugh and Allen Jenkins. The two make a catchy team, take turns butchering the language, and just generally undermine any attempts by the other characters—or the audience—at taking this whole picture too seriously. I guarantee you—if you don't like dumb detective humor, you will not enjoy this film!
The plot, though unoriginal, is nevertheless well managed; even Morris's character, the presumed hero, is a potential suspect, as is everyone else in the story.
Funniest bit: McHugh and Jenkins telling the story of their earlier encounter with the Black Ace, rich in impenetrable slang ("So I'm crowdin' him with the heater, but he don't belch
") and including McHugh's hilarious admonition to Jenkins—"How many times have I gotta tell ya? These guys don't understand them technical terms!"