10 May 2010 | kevinolzak
Rare Columbia B featuring a young Lon Chaney Jr
"Killer at Large" (1936), or "Killers on the Loose," as it was titled on television, is a forgotten Columbia B with a largely unknown cast, directed at a fairly fast clip by Western veteran David Selman. Top-billed Mary Brian stars as store detective Linda Allen, engaged to clerk Tommy Braddock (the forgettable Russell Hardie), who works in the jewelry department. Employed for one more day in the store window is the mysterious Mr. Zero (Henry Brandon), a master of disguise posing as a wax figure, with customers having to guess which figure he really is. While most of the employees are away at a meeting, the safe's jewels are stolen, and store manager William Bentley (Harry Hayden) is found dead at the scene by Tommy and Linda. Inspector O'Hara (Thurston Hall from the Lone Wolf series) believes they know more than they're telling, and he's right; taking her job as detective very seriously, she quickly determines that Mr. Zero is the obvious suspect, and tracks him to his waxworks hideout. The young Henry Brandon makes a delightfully twitching villain with a wonderful buildup, but the script reduces him to a real dunderhead, let down by a definitely underwhelming climax. A young Lon Chaney Jr. appears unbilled in two brief sequences as one of Mr. Zero's two henchmen, conducting a secret burial involving a now useless accomplice (Betty Compson). Frequent Laurel and Hardy policeman Harry Bernard ("you nearly blew my brains out!") plays the cemetery caretaker. Mary Brian was best known for her three appearances as W. C. Fields' daughter in the silent "Running Wild" and "Two Flaming Youths" (both 1927), and the 1935 "Man on the Flying Trapeze," plus the leading lady in "Charlie Chan in Paris" (also 1935).