The League of Frightened Men (1937)

Approved   |    |  Mystery


The League of Frightened Men (1937) Poster

In the second of Columbia's Nero Wolfe programmers, the housebound detective is confronted with several deaths and a disappearance among a group of 10 Harvard alumni, who had years ago ... See full summary »


5.7/10
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4 April 2011 | johnno-17
2
| Walter Connoly is Nero Wolfe - NOT!
A "rare-films-on-DVD" seller has posted the first 7 minutes of this at Youtube as promotion. Their sales would improve if they took it down. They certainly won't get many fans of the Rex Stout novels picking up a copy any time soon, except for the 'must-have-everything' fanatics. I certainly have no interest in the remaining 67 minutes that I haven't seen.

It is said that Stout refused to have any other films made from his books because of gruff-voiced Lionel Stander's slightly pugilistic performance as Archie Goodwin. But the real disaster, screaming from his first appearance on screen, is Walter Connolly pretending to play the role of Nero Wolfe.

Don't get me wrong - Connolly was a fine character-actor of the old school. The problem here really isn't completely his - after all, he didn't cast himself in the role, and he is definitely miscast. So not only does Connolly apparently have no idea who Nero Wolfe might be or why his character is popular, but neither do the producer, the director or the scriptwriter - wow, could Stout have been unluckier in his choice of whom to sell his movie rights to? Let's get some basics straight: Nero Wolfe does not wear a smoking jacket; he does not have a mustache; he does not sit beside a fireplace that his office doesn't have. He does not have a 'butler' whom Archie views with some contempt, he has Fritz Brenner a Swiss chef whose cooking Archie really enjoys. He doesn't smile, he doesn't make light banter, he abhors bodily contact, he doesn't like to make any visitors feel welcome, because they're not - as clients they are a necessary burden to keep him in beer, good food, and orchids - speaking about which, the beer was noticeably absent from the first 7 minutes of this film - so obviously this couldn't possible have been about Nero Wolfe.

I thought the bearded William Conrad miscast in the old Nero Wolfe television show, but at least he was allowed to play Wolfe as smug and self- satisfied and somewhat overbearing, which Wolfe certainly is. And I thought Sidney Greenstreet's appearance as Wolfe on the old radio series was a bit of miscasting, too, but at least they had him drink plenty of beer.

But this film hasn't anything of Wolfe in it at all. A lot of literary series characters get rewritten for the screen, but nothing quite like this, short of open parody. And if this was meant to be parody - it ain't funny.

If you don't like the Nero Wolfe novels by Rex Stout, or haven't read them, you might like this; what I saw was the beginning of a pretty typical low-energy '30's B mystery. But if you have any admiration for Stout or his characters - STAY AWAY - you will certainly experience some frustration, or like me you will be flat outraged.

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Genres

Mystery

Details

Release Date:

25 May 1937

Language

English


Country of Origin

USA

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