For Reel

The Patient in Room 18 (1938)
May 19, 2014, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Bobby Connolly & Crane Wilbur
3.5 Stars
The Patient in Room 18Patric Knowles takes on the role of private investigator Lance O’Leary in the penultimate adaptation of Mignon G. Eberhart’s Nurse Keate series. Perhaps best remembered as Will Scarlet in The Adventures of Robin Hood (he and Errol Flynn would become good friends during the filming of The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1936), Knowles is a likable screen presence with a knack for physical comedy, even if he isn’t as dynamic a detective as someone with the matched intensity of a William Powell or Warren William. The film begins with O’Leary suffering from a nervous breakdown after he had failed to solve his last case. Conveniently, he is sent to stay at a hospital where his girlfriend, Sara Keate (Ann Sheridan), works as the head nurse. When a patient is killed and $100,000 of medicinal radium goes missing, O’Leary works to solve the case alongside the irritable Inspector Foley (Cliff Clark), who hates private investigators. Sheridan played Keate in two back-to-back films, and it’s remarkable how much more she has to do here than in the later Mystery House, even if she is unfortunately left out of much of the plot machinations. Nevertheless, where the film goes right is that it slides into the case only after the dynamics between characters are fully established–one has a pretty good idea why any of the suspects would kill the eventual victim before he meets his fate, which elevates it above many B-picture whodunits. Cinematographer James Van Trees impressively shoots a terrifically moody murder sequence, which inevitably takes place during a thunderstorm at night.