21 February 2010 | kevinolzak
Lionel Atwill in one of his last roles
1944's "Secrets of Scotland Yard" is a forgotten Republic programmer featuring an unusually strong cast for a poverty row studio, and scripted by Denison Clift, best known as both writer and director of Lugosi's "Mystery of the Marie Celeste," shot in England in 1935. The Germans admit that their defeat in WW1 resulted from the clerks working in Scotland Yard's Room 40, successfully decoding German messages, and General Carl Eberling (Louis V. Arco) responds by installing a counterspy to aid the enemy. 20 years later, C. Aubrey Smith plays Sir Christopher Pelt, new head of Room 40, who heads up the investigation when top decoder John Usher (Edgar Barrier) is found murdered in Room 40 by an unknown assailant. Pelt recruits John's twin brother Robert (also Barrier) to secretly replace John in an effort to ferret out the killer amongst the other clerks (Lionel Atwill, John Abbott, Forrester Harvey, Frederick Worlock, and Matthew Boulton, all veterans of Universal's SHERLOCK HOLMES series). The reliable Martin Kosleck makes an all-too-brief appearance as a Nazi villain, Mary Gordon (Mrs. Hudson in the HOLMES films) plays the Usher housekeeper, William Edmunds (Mr. Martini in "It's a Wonderful Life") shows up as a sinister bookstore proprietor. Both C. Aubrey Smith and Stephanie Bachelor would be back the following year in a similar title, "Scotland Yard Investigator," from the same director, George Blair. This was one of the last films for the bespectacled Lionel Atwill, who is seen to great advantage throughout; his career never recovered from the sex scandal at Christmas 1940, the kind of private party that would go completely unnoticed today. Refusing to bow to attempted blackmail, he 'lied like a gentleman' under oath to protect others, paying the price as Hollywood mostly turned its back on him, except for Universal, Republic, RKO, and PRC, their low budget productions given greater stature by his unfailing professionalism. His last film was the Universal serial "Lost City of the Jungle," which only finished after his bronchial cancer forced him to withdraw, dying at age 61 in April 1946.