16 May 2010 | Michael_Elliott
Nice Mix of Mystery, Noir and Horror
I Love a Mystery (1945)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
The first of three films from Columbia based around the popular radio program I Love a Mystery. In the film, detectives Jack Packard (Jim Bannon) and Doc Long (Barton Yarborough) meet a man (George Macready) who fears he's going to die in a matter of days because a secret cult wants his head to put on the body of their mummified master. The detectives begin to unravel clues that might lead to the man's wife (Nina Foch) who is also being stalked by the cult. Due to how they were showed on TCM I ended up watching the second film in the series, THE DEVIL'S MASK, first and hated it from start to finish so I really wasn't sure what to expect from this film. Turns out that it's one of the more unique murder/mysteries from this era due to dark, foggy streets, a rich atmosphere, interesting characters and a rather ugly subject matter. The word decapitation is used throughout this film and one of the biggest plot moves is that this man is going to have his head cut off. How this got past the censors is beyond me but it's these dark touches that really make this film stick out, especially when compared to other films like this. Director Levin does a very good job at building up the atmosphere as we get several classic touches from the dark streets, people hiding in shadows and of course one plot twist happening after another. The movie actually manages to be very believable in all the twists that happen and it's helped even more by the fact that the mystery itself is a good one. Bannon is very good in the role and his laid back approach makes for an interesting leading man. Yarborough, playing pretty much a country bumpkin, isn't too bad either. Macready does a real good job playing the scared man who feels he's about to die. The film belongs to the ladies though as Foch is terrific in her few scenes as the wife and we also get a great femme fatal in Carole Mathews playing a strange woman who Macready meets in a bar. At 69-minutes the film runs just long enough to get enough right and it doesn't over welcome itself by going for too long. Fans of this genre will want to check this out just for the darker than normal subject matter and the fun performances.