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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Comedy > Spy > Murder > Crime > Train > Psychopath > Serial Killer > Camp > Murder In The Fleet (1935/MGM)/Murder In The Private Car (1934/MGM)/The Strangler (1963/Allied Artists/Warner Archive DVDs)

Murder In The Fleet (1935/MGM)/Murder In The Private Car (1934/MGM)/The Strangler (1963/Allied Artists/Warner Archive DVDs)

Picture: C/C/C+ Sound: C Extras: C-/C-/D Films: C+/C/C+

PLEASE NOTE: All three DVDs are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

These mystery comedies all have some unintentional laughs...

Edward Sedgwick's Murder In The Fleet (1935) is one is a mix of comedy, some mystery and a little patriotism as spies try to sabotage a new electronics system on a U.S. Navy ship with a young Robert Taylor as the soldier who is supposed to make sure all works out. However, you never know who the spy is and who might open fire with a hidden handgun at any moment. Jean Parker is the female lead, while Ted Healy and Nat Pendleton show up as the comic relief. There are some interesting moments here, but there is too much comedy and not enough of any kind of puzzle, yet this is no action film. This is more noticeable when the narrative is interrupted by a few somber pro-military moments that are expected in any such production and are just fine.

However, even at a short 69 minutes, this just drags too much and tends to be very uneven. Mystery fans will be a bit disappointed, but MGM was trying. Jean Hersholt also stars.

Though the titles may be similar and happen to have the same producer in Lucien Hubbard, but Harry Beaumont's Murder In The Private Car (1934) was made by MGM the year before, but is not part of any series, though the underrated Una Merkel does how up in both. She is the lead, but the male lead is the somewhat unconnected Charles Ruggles as a 'sort-of' detective as switchboard operator (Mary Carlisle) finds out she's the lost lost daughter of a very wealthy man and takes a rain (and her co-worker with her) to meet up with 'dad' and join the upper crust.

However, she is expected and the train has all kinds of dark surprises for her and company, making this much more of a suspenseful mystery film, if not a great one. This time, unnecessary racist 'comedy' breaks the suspense and at the worst times in the worst ways. I give the makers credit for a fun final reel, but more could have been made of the 63 minutes they had. Serious mystery film fans will still want to see it once.

Lastly we have Burt Topper's The Strangler (1963), Allied Artists attempt to cash in on the blockbuster success of Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) which they imitated in several ways, including the poster art (on the cover of the DVD next to this review, where they imitate Janet Leigh's underwear-wearing shot and add more women in just as little clothing), landing the great Victor Buono (hot off of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) as the title killer and medical man with a mother complex who kills young, pretty women.

This is done semi-comically like a William Castle film, but we still get a couple of creepy moments and a few unintentional laughs, yet Buono steals most of his scenes and future Grandma Walton (from TV's The Waltons) plays his sick-in-the-hospital mother. The funny patches are not enough to save it from flat moments or bad ideas about psychology, but it is still worth a look for the novelty it is. So many rip-offs of the Hitchcock classic hit screens at this time (Castle's Homicidal (1961) was the best of the semi-comic imitators) and they were also all trying to be Clouzot's Diabolique (1955, see the Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), so it is cheesy and ambitious at the same time. Thus, it is worth a look.

The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on both Murder films might be shot on the high quality film stock MGM was known for, but the prints here shows their age and more than a little damage, even when some shots have nice clarity for their age, while, the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Strangler is 30 years younger than those films, comes with a newer, cleaner print and is easily the visual champ here. I like the cinematography on all three films, all issued in theatrical monophonic sound, but the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on all three are weak, somewhat compressed and could all use some work. They seem to be recorded well enough, but they more than show their age, so be careful of volume switching and high volume playback.

The only extras are Original Theatrical Trailers on the two Murder titles.

To order any or all of the Warner Archive DVDs, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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