Secret Of The Blue Room, 1933. 7/10

Entertaining old dark house murder mystery. The premise is unique, and the plot unfolds nicely. The house, Helldorf castle, is really the star, with its forbidden room, secret passageways, suits of armor, a gargoyle here and there, and a pond below the infamous blue room.


Lionel Atwill doesn’t have much to do here; the three suitors for Gloria Stuart’s affections aren’t much as characters, with the exception of Walter, who’s really too old for her anyway. To slightly rake over the coals brought to light by other reviewers, there’s not really any memorable performances, the plot hints at events that aren’t resolved, and the setting itself is ambiguous.


There’s only one murder that’s accounted for, the one Thomas confesses to. The Commissioner could at least ask Thomas about the earlier victims, or Atwill’s Van Helldorf could mention that the Commissioner might reopen those unresolved cases. That Thomas would kill to get Irene is plausible; but there was something strange about how the secret passageway denouement was set up.


We see Walter shoot his dummy, apparently in an attempt to flush out the real killer. But when he enters the blue room, he immediately finds the entrance to the secret passageway, and descends the gothic innards of the castle. Apparently, Walter has deduced that the killer hangs out down there. But if he knew that much, why wait to confront the killer? Why not get some of the policeman to help? He almost gets himself killed; his shot only serves to warn Thomas. Maybe the police put the dummy there without telling Walter, so at first he was fooled and thought it was the killer. Even though I watched that scene twice, I’m sure I still missed something.


When Irene’s real father shows, a lot of possibilities open up: for a bit I thought she might be the killer. Nothing wrong with a dead-end spur of the plot. But, even if the mysterious father doesn’t figure in the plot resolution, the revelation of his identity was an interesting device that deserved more exploration.


As cool as the castle looks, both inside and out, just where is it? Looks too old to be in the U.S. The castle’s and family’s name suggest Germany, or, we could just compromise and say England. That in itself isn’t such a big deal, but when some characters have American accents, others have English accents, and there’s other accents as well, it becomes a distraction.


There were other distractions that worked. The hyper maid stirred things up nicely. The cat poking around in the blue room, as well as the butler’s sudden entrance in the dining room were well-timed bits that kept everyone on edge.


Secret of the Blue Room entertains, but to be more enjoyable it needs a few more rooms. 7/10.

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