|1940s film. With Byron Foulger. I'll say no more.|
But worry ye not, TDOY-ers—Mary’s goose is not yet cooked because criminologist Charles Finch (Lionel Atwill) is convinced of her innocence, and does his darndest to prove she’s been railroaded. (Death House is told mainly in flashback, as Finch relates his riveting tale to a room of reporters.)
I’m convinced they shot the movie on two sets—one of which is a jernt frequented by the folks in the film known as “The Grotto,” which is apparently the only decent restaurant-bar in the unnamed town. Helmed by Steve Sekely, a Hungarian-born director best known for Hollow Triumph (1948; a.k.a. The Scar) and The Day of the Triffids (1963), Death House is entertaining but please don’t interpret this to mean that it’s good…because, Lord-a-mighty is this a mess. The script by Henry O. Hoyt (based on Frederick C. Davis’ “Meet the Executioner”) is good for a lot of unintentional laughs; my favorite is when a detective played by Cy Kendall (another familiar face from Serial Saturdays) observes: “This isn't one of those tough cases which depends on clues.” Much of the screenplay features logic holes you could steer a U-Haul through; I spent most of the movie trying to suss out why Parker’s lawyer didn’t object to the questionable “eyewitness” testimony unless he was this guy. I will admit, I found the situation between Parker and Fowley rather fascinating (how would you handle being the one responsible for administering the death penalty to your fiancée?), particularly in a scene where Jean tells Doug: “I’m glad it’s going to be you.” (Ah, romance…)
Actor Sam Flint, who’s currently a cast member of the Serial Saturdays presentation of The Black Widow (1947), can be seen briefly as The Governor, and former kiddie thesp Marcia Mae Jones plays Jean’s sister Suzy—I love Marcia, because she was so delightfully mean to Shirley Temple in The Little Princess (1939). Lionel Atwill, who was becoming a PRC mainstay by this time (due to proclivities in his personal life that I won’t go into here…but that you can certainly find information about on The Google), certainly classes up the joint (and I kind of get the impression he knew he was just wading through this stuff yet his professionalism kept him going until his death of pneumonia in 1946).
Behind Green Lights (1946) stars William (Barrie Craig: Confidential Investigator) Gargan as a police lieutenant investigating the murder of a man who’s been practically deposited on the steps of the police station. The victim is Walter Bard (Bernard Nedell), a private investigator who moonlights as a blackmailer, and suspicion for his croaking has fallen on Janet Bradley (Carole Landis), a young lovely trapped in Bard’s evil clutches—her father is Luther Bradley, the current reform candidate for mayor (the city gubmint apparently can be bought for the cost of a loaf of bread). Also in the “persons of interest” pool are Bard’s estranged wife Nora (Mary Anderson) and her fiancé Arthur Templeton (played by Charles Russell, radio’s first Johnny Dollar).
This temporary detour into comedy doesn’t really help Behind Green Lights (nor does a silly subplot involving a flower lady [Mabel Paige] who keeps kvetching that she’s owed “a dollar and six bits”), which I found pretty boring for the most part. Apart from the presence from Landis and an early appearance from John Ireland (who plays Gargan’s second-in-command) there’s not much to recommend here besides the inclusion of a lot of character greats like Don Beddoe, Roy Roberts, Lane Chandler and J. Farrell MacDonald.