For Reel

I Love a Mystery (1945)
July 16, 2017, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Henry Levin
3.5 Stars
I Love a Mystery.jpgPremiering in 1939, the “I Love a Mystery” radio series was a much-loved hybrid of mystery and horror, often involving investigations into the supernatural. With horror movies having undergone a revival thanks to films such as those by Val Lewton, the film adaptation of the series seemed like a sure bet, especially as the similarly dark The Whistler series translated capably to the big screen just two years prior. The first film in this short-lived series is delightfully bizarre—within minutes of the opening credits, a decapitated head is played simultaneously for shock and humor, establishing a tone that toys with the tropes of horror without undercutting them entirely. Jim Bannon and Barton Yarborough play the lead detectives, however the film’s lack of success might have something to do with how passive they are in the plot. Whereas many mystery series’ brand themselves on the detectives themselves, Bannon and Yarborough hardly leave an impression—if the latter’s Texan drawl distinguishes him from similar characters and he generally seems comfortable on screen, the former is instantly forgettable. Regardless, it’s the performance of George Macready, the paranoiac whose head is a prized possession of a local cult, that sells the tone of the picture, which plays as almost Lovecraftian in the way it deals with cults and madness.

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