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  • I saw this movie for the first and only time in the late '80's on AMC and have been searching for it to purchase ever since. My son, who was then 6 years old, and I laughed and chuckled throughout the movie at the dry wit, sarcasm and humor. You have to pay attention, because like many other movies of this era, there is a plot (!!) and a true storyline and you have to be listening to catch the sometimes subtle humor, particularly between Gleason's and Pitts' characters. My kids grew up on these old B&W's and can't understand why their friends don't find them entertaining. Since it's not a "splash & gash" movie of today, with no storyline and only loud music and special effects, most young people (and many adults) today would no doubt find it boring. It's not "Arsenic & Old Lace" or "The Maltese Falcon", but it's a very funny old B&W and I have every intention of purchasing it ASAP!
  • We did not know that Hildegarde Withers plays golf, but our first view of Zasu Pitts in the role shows her practicing her swing (indoors, no less). It seems she had a golf date with her good friend, Inspector Oscar Piper, which he has unfortunately broken: a case has come up, and Miss Withers—quickly recovering from her irritation at being stood up—hastens to the scene to assist in the investigation.

    James Gleason is Inspector Piper once again, and gives his usual entertaining performance as the irascible detective with a soft spot for the school teacher who follows him around offering unsolicited crime-solving advice. Zasu Pitts as Withers delivers the usual dry Withers comments and is true to the character in her impatience with fools. (A policeman mistakenly arrests and handcuffs her, then tells her anything she says may be used against her, to which she replies, "Anything I say may be used against YOU—and that'll be plenty if you don't unshackle me at once!") Pitts looks good in the role, and she and Gleason make a snappy team. Considering that this was Gleason's fifth film in his role but Pitts was brand new to hers, the interaction between the two is impressively smooth.

    The plot involves the murder of one John Carter, who is shot dead in a parked roadster a mere moment after attempting to kiss a girl who didn't want to be kissed and then laughing at her. Suspects abound, of course; complicating the plot is a possible case of mistaken identity, as various characters were out and about, tailing and being tailed, at the time of the murder. Why again was the body dragged from the roadster and (eventually) deposited in the murdered man's own library? --The plot does indeed thicken.

    A solid supporting cast includes James Donlan as a goofy cop with an interest in astrology; Paul Fix as a nervous chauffeur; and Louise Latimer, who had just played a different role (but a similar character) in the Withers mystery immediately preceding this one.

    No classic, but certainly an entertaining hour for those of us who enjoy this kind of thing: great character actors, some good dialog, and a plot that's a bit more complicated than really necessary.
  • Zasu Pitts holds her own in this entry to the Stuart Palmer mystery series that spawned a movie entry. Hildegarde Winters and Oscar Piper solved murder mysteries in RKO's B movie cannon. Younger than Helen Broadrick and prettier than Edna May Olvier Zasu's Hildegarde seems to have a more social relationship with James Gleason's Oscar Piper. In this movie she has a golf date with Oscar. And in the movie 40 Naughty Girls they are attending a musical when murder rears its ugly head. Regardless of the different actress the movies as whole are very enjoyable. I hope to see them on DVD like Nancy Drew or Mike Shayne. The movies always had interesting locations that are no longer with us. From the New York Aquarium in The Penguin Pool Murders to the public school building in Murder on a Blackboard and out to sea on Catalina Island for Murder on a Honeymoon. A viewer gets a glimpse of history and living, of life and entertainment from a bygone era in Hollywood a viewer is given a look at life and living in a bygone age. p.s. I love to see old time telegram pages splashed on the screen. A Post Script: it is now 2014 and I have The Hildegarde / Oscar Movie set from WARNER ARCHIVES. I now firmly attest Zasu Pitts is the more comfortable 'Miss Withers for me. She sheds the spinster cast transforming the character into a crimebuster (with official police credentials)and masters the'Colombo' guise of detective misdirection by her mannerisms and appearance. She exhibits skills (using a hair pin to unlock handcuffs). Her mannerism of not seeming to pay attention makes suspects underestimate her very keen analytical mind. Miss Pitts also brought more emotion to the role. She shows enthusiasm for the thrill of solving a case.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ***SPOILERS*** It's when John Carter's, Richard Tucker, body was found in his study with a bullet in his head that the cop in charge of his murder investigation Oscar Piper, James Gleason, got help from a very expected, in that she helped him solve almost every case that he's been put on, spinster school teacher and armature sleuth Hildegarde Winters, ZaSu Pitts.

    With Carter's maid Alice Stevens(Louise Latimer), who was the last person to be with him before he was murdered, as the prime suspect in her bosses murder Hildergarde uncovers a number of clues indicating that Carter was involved in a jewelry theft ring and was offed because he was holding out,in him not splitting the loot, on his fellow gang members. This leads to Hildergarde checking out this Cellini Cup at the New York Cosmopolitan Museum that held the famous Sultan Emerald,which she found hidden in Catrer's study, that was stolen out of the Paris Louvre Museum some 10 years ago.

    The plot thickens when after getting the information about the Cellini Cup from museum security guard, who's an authority on the subject, Mr.Gordon, John Miltern, ends up not only murdered and thrown down a flight of stairs but the cup itself is stolen during all the confusion. It now becomes apparent that it wasn't Alice who had anything to do with Carters murder as Hildegarde always insisted but a gang of Jewel thieves who, with the museum now sealed off in not allowing anyone to leave, are now stuck in the museum! But the $64.00 question is who are they and how many?

    ****SPOILERS**** A bit of a confusing ending with Police Inspector Piper and Hildegarde tricking the Jewel thieves as well as murderers in exposing themselves with evidence, a fake homeless eye witness, that would have never held up in court. The best part of the movie was the exposer or appearance, wearing a mask, at the very end of the film of one of the members of the gang: The angry midget played by John T. Bambury in disguise as one of the schoolboys visiting, with his class, the museum. Despite Bambury not even being in the movie's credits he in fact stole all the acting, you never for a moment suspected he even had a mask on, honors in it.
  • Back in the 1930s, Edna May Oliver played amateur detective Hildegarde Withers in several very successful films. Unfortunately, when Miss Oliver went to MGM to work, this left a vacancy. RKO/Radio Pictures didn't want to discontinue the series and they tried a couple actresses in the role...though none were as good as Oliver. In "The Plot Thickens", they tried out Zazu Pitts in the lead...and they apparently liked her enough to have her appear once more time as the detective.

    Soon after the story begins, a man is shot. Was he the victim of a jealous boyfriend? It appears this way. However, through the course of the picture, it becomes obvious that the victim was a jerk...and had something to do with the theft of a valuable piece of art, the Cellini Cup.

    I liked this film for many reasons. Much of it was because the film had lots of false leads that kept you guessing. And, much was because the detective (James Gleason) investigating the case was NOT an idiot and often made smart moves. So, instead of Hildegarde saving the day and constantly out-thinking the cops, she was more an assistant to an already capable guy...which made this much unlike the average B-mystery. Well worth seeing...even without Oliver.
  • Its a cliché, I know. But they don't make them like this any more.

    And that's for a good, a very good reason: people wouldn't watch them, even those like myself who really value these.

    What I'm talking about here are the comedy-mysteries that were pumped out in the 30s like TeeVee shows are now. Many of the same production values are used, in terms of economy and lack of depth. As with TeeVee stuff, the value is partially in the accretion of many similar movies -- in seeing one, you see some harmonization with hundreds of others.

    We couldn't make these today because the genre was occluded by noir so far as the tone and by the hardboiled detective so far as story. These have not only changed movies, but the way we think.

    So visiting these little films are somewhat like seeing that part of old London that's been turned into a theme park for tourists: something with a nostalgic. uncomplicated charm.

    Of these, you cannot do better than James Gleason and the Hildegarde Winters things. These actually have a plot just complex enough to remind you that there is one. It doesn't "play fair" in that the complete solution uses knowledge the audience doesn't have. But in all these, the partial solution is telegraphed early.

    I admit, I like the Hildegarde as portrayed by Edna Mae Oliver better in some regards. She's a more memorable character, and the notion of Gleason falling in love with her is as precious a joke as you can find.

    But Zasu's got much better comic timing, so this has better jokes verbally.

    Watch these, or something like them -- just like you might visit a "restored area" -- because such journeys are necessary to understanding film.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It sure seems that way. Miss Withers does help in the capture of some museum thieves, but it's Inspector Piper who devises the plan to unmask and arrest the murderer - about the identity of whom Hildegarde has no clue! I guess the role has been slightly re-written to better fit the profile of the flighty Zasu Pitts, who replaced Helen Broderick, who replaced the first, sharper Edna May Oliver. Meanwhile, James Gleason has perfected his Oscar Piper mannerisms ("Oh yeah?", "Now we're getting somewhere", the repeated head nodding, etc.) and his top billing probably reflects the fact that he had become the "star" of the series by that point. As for the film itself, it's pretty flat, but it does live up to its title: the plot is thick enough, and some of its surprises are genuinely surprising. **1/2 out of 4.
  • Plot Thickens, The (1936)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    The fifth film in the Hildegarde Withers series is the first to have Zasu Pitts in the lead. This time out a man involved in a possible love triangle is murdered and there are countless suspects. Withers must assist Detective Oscar Piper (James Gleason) in tracking down the murder but soon more twists and turns begin to happen. THE PLOT THICKENS is the perfect title for this movie because it seems every ten-minutes or so another twist is happening and the film goes off into a new direction. It starts off as a love triangle mixed with murder but then more bodies begin to pile up and soon the witnesses are changing their stories and then we even get a heist subplot thrown in. At just 67-minutes this movie doesn't have a slow bone in its body because it goes so fast that at first you have to almost backtrack to try and figure out what's going on in the opening murder sequence. We get to see so many characters so quickly that I think the film hurts itself because by the time you figure out what's going on you're already onto the next murder and plot twist. The story should be given quite a bit of credit because even though this was just a "B" series, RKO went all out and really delivered a smart screenplay. It also doesn't hurt that Gleason and Pitts work so well together. No one will take the place of Edna May Oliver but Pitts is really good here. She plays the straight parts fine but she also has a very good comic timing that works perfectly well with Gleason. As for Gleason, he was always good in the series and he too turns in a fine performance. None of the supporting players really stand out but they're all decent enough. The final ten-minutes features a couple plot twists that her perfectly done including one pre-Scooby Doo sequence that really works tremendously well. THE PLOT THICKENS will certainly entertain fans of the series but it also makes you scratch your head wondering how the next film in the series (FORTY NAUGHTY GIRLS) could turn out so bad.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "The role of spinster school teacher Hildegarde Withers is now being played by Zasu Pitts." I could just about see that announcement being made as the popular character actress, best known for her nervous exclamation of "Oh dear!" takes over the part played in three installments by the tall and lanky Edna May Oliver who was as famous for her judgmental sniff as Pitts was for her nervous line delivery. Minimizing her nervousness here, Pitts adds a toughness to her image as she once again reteams with James Gleason as grouchy police detective Oliver Piper to uncover who murdered a wealthy businessman in Van Cortlandt Park in Brooklyn and moved his body back into his mansion studdy.

    Suspects include a vindictive Butler who believes the chauffeur and made were in the car that the millionaire had drove off in, the boyfriend of a girl that the murdered man was secretly seeing, and various people involved in the mystery of the theft of a strange-looking plate from a local museum. The first 20 minutes gives a nice set up to this entry and once Pitts and Gleason come into the film, their amusing scrapping helps along in the investigation.

    When movie series hit their fourth or fifth installments, they began to lose steam, but with the replacement of Oliver with Pitts, this took a nice little turn even though Oliver had been fantastic in the role. It's nice to see Pitts play a formidable character who takes no need and deals with her scrapes simply by picking herself and quickly dusting herself off and not letting anybody including Gleason aid her. Unfortunately, Pitts only played the part for this one episode in the series and was replaced by Helen Broderick who brought a completely different dimension to the character in the last film. A fan of all three comic character actresses, I can't say who my favorite Miss Withers is, but Pitts in this entry helps make it quite above-average and as a result, this one is quite good.
  • I very much wanted to like this movie. I've always liked James Gleason and Zazu Pitts. But the script was uninteresting, and the direction lackluster. It wasn't funny, and it didn't move, even though it's a short movie.

    There's really no reason to watch this movie.