Dead Men Tell (1941)

Approved   |    |  Comedy, Crime, Mystery


Dead Men Tell (1941) Poster

A treasure map in four pieces, the ghost of a hanged pirate, a talking parrot, and a ship full of red herrings complicate Charlie's search for a murderer on board a docked ship.


7.2/10
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15 March 2014 | binapiraeus
10
| One of the biggest 'unknown' diamonds among crime movies
If many of the other 'Charlie Chan' movies are real gems, some smaller, some quite big (like "The Black Camel" or "Charlie Chan's Secret"), this much lesser known film is perhaps the 'Golden Jubilee' among them all - and among mystery movies in general. With moderate, but immensely effective means, this mixture between a scary ghost story and a solid whodunit goes way beyond the general line of the 'Charlie Chan' series: there are elements of horror that can compete with any horror classic of the time, while the atmosphere is overall Noirish, with everything from the characteristic lighting effects to the feeling of doom that seems to hang over the protagonists as much as the fog on deck...

Strange, but very determined elderly Miss Nodbury, the ancestor of a notorious pirate who was hanged for murder, has organized a 'treasure hunt' on the island where the pirate's treasure is hidden - worth 60,000,000 dollars! But she wants to call off the trip on board the old pirate ship 'Suva Star' the last minute, because the night before somebody tried to steal the pirate's map that was in her possession - but the old lady is clever: she has divided the map into four parts and kept only one part to herself, while she sent the other three to members of the expedition. Still, somebody obviously is craving for ALL of the pieces, and so, on the same night, pirate captain "Black Hook" himself, in whose ghost Miss Nodbury has always believed, seems to come in order to claim them and summon Miss Nodbury to her ancestors...

Now don't believe that this is just another whodunit with only a little bit of 'ghost hokum' in it - there are moments when the strange, melancholy melody that 'means death', as Miss Nodbury insisted, and the sound of the pirate's wooden leg approaching ACTUALLY make not only the expedition members, but also us think our conviction that there ARE no ghosts over again...

But then, of course, there's a VERY real murder to solve; because while you COULD explain Miss Nodbury's death as a natural one, due to her heart problems and her strong belief in ghosts - you certainly can't put the blame for the suffocation of a man in an old diving bell on supernatural powers! And there's a really illustrious group of suspects on board, from a numismatist who doesn't seem to know his occupation's scientific name to a neurotic and his woman psychiatrist to the hardened, taciturn captain himself...

This movie is indeed perfect in EVERY way: the eerie atmosphere the direction creates with all means from the settings to the sound effects to the shadows and the fog is completed by a marvelous cast - in particular Ethel Griffies as the pirate's heiress is simply MAGNIFICENT. In order not to scare the wits out of the audience completely, of course some humor is added as always (with Jimmy falling into the harbor basin with every opportunity) - but all ye who are about to watch this movie for the first time, be prepared for some VERY creepy moments!

But speaking seriously now, as a long-time fanatic of classic B movies: to my knowledge and in my opinion, this is about the MOST underrated B mystery movie of all times.

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Genres

Comedy | Crime | Mystery | Thriller

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