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Review: One Mysterious Night (1944)


It costs only a dollar—1/100th of a C-note—to gaze at a display of precious gems at the Carleton Plaza Hotel, an event that’s fundraising for the war effort…and that features the Blue Star of the Nile as its main attraction. But that attraction won’t be around for long—a couple of hoods, Paul Martens (William Wright) and Matt Healy (Robert Williams), put the snatch on the diamond with the help of the Carleton’s general manager, George Daley (Robert E. Scott). The audience is aware of this, of course, but Inspector Farraday (Richard Lane) is not—and after being called on the carpet by the commissioner (Edward Keane), Farraday falls back on the old reliable of publicly accusing Horatio “Boston Blackie” Black (Chester Morris) of the theft.

night8We’ve already been clued in as to Blackie’s innocence…but even without that information we know our hero is the victim of a baseless accusation, since he and his sidekick The Runt (George E. Stone) are working legitimate jobs in the tool factory owned by their pal Arthur Manleder (Harrison Greene). When Blackie goes to police headquarters to confront Farraday and clear his name…that’s when his cop nemesis reveals his true intentions. He knows that Blackie is the only person who can ferret out the people responsible, and he deputizes the ex-jewel thief to carry out this mission.

night2It will certainly be strange for Blackie to be working with the encouragement of the police department for a change…but Farraday starts to have second thoughts when a series of events, including the murder of Daley, suggests that Blackie might be in on the caper after all. Throw in a doggedly determined female reporter, Dorothy Anderson (Janis Carter), and some truly offbeat set pieces…and you have the makings of one of the best vehicles in Columbia’s Boston Blackie franchise: One Mysterious Night (1944).

What makes Night such an engaging Boston Blackie entry is that while it contains many of the elements audiences have come to expect from the film series, it throws in some amusing twists to make the entry a particular standout. Blackie dons several of his legendary disguises to track down the thieves, and there’s a riotously funny moment where he and Runt, posing as phone repairmen, converse with a salesclerk (Ann Loos) working the hotel’s newsstand. “The nursery’s at the other end of the lobby,” she tells Blackie, suggesting that The Runt is his “little boy.” Blackie corrects her, letting her know The Runt is his assistant. “That half-pint?” she asks.

night4“Why not?” responds Blackie. “I got him for half-price.” Our hero’s first attempt at going undercover, earlier in the film, resulted in his unmasking by reporter Anderson…and he’s hauled back to headquarters, much to Farraday’s frustration—which increases when Blackie tells him he has no other recourse but to let the press (and public) know that he’s “escaped.” “I can see the headlines now,” Farraday wails. “’Blackie Escapes Farraday After Three Hours in Jail’.” Sure enough, after a scene dissolve, Blackie and Runt are perusing a newspaper with that very headline.

night7Night also brings back many of the favorite supporting characters from previous Blackie entries…but audiences might be a bit perplexed by the fact that they have new faces. Lloyd Corrigan is sorely missed as Arthur Manleder. The character puts in but a brief appearance, and he’s played by Harrison Greene for this go-round. Joseph Crehan is adequate as pawnshop owner-fence Jumbo Madigan (played in previous Blackie movies by Cy Kendall). Lyle Latell takes over for Walter Sande as the unbelievably dense Sergeant Matthews. Latell’s Matthews is convincing evidence that they’ve lowered the I.Q. test requirements for the police force…but after seeing a couple of plainclothesman play gin rummy in Jumbo’s shop—oblivious to the fact that two of the “mannequins” are actually Martens and Healy—it could be concluded that there’s a systemic problem.

night5Janis Carter is the leading lady in One Mysterious Night; the Columbia starlet appeared in two of the Whistler films discussed previously here at Radio Spirits, The Mark of the Whistler (1944) and The Power of the Whistler (1945). But she’s a bit overshadowed by the actress playing Eileen Dailey, George’s concerned sister—it’s Dorothy Malone in one of her earliest film roles before going on to Academy Award-winning glory with Written on the Wind in 1956. Also uncredited is character great Minerva Urecal (as the manager of an apartment building with an all-female clientele), who later appeared on such TV shows as The Adventures of Tugboat Annie and Peter Gunn.

night1Honestly, there are some really unusual touches in this—witness the spinning street sign after the opening credits, without any explanation as to why it’s twirling on its axle. The crisp, snappy direction of Night is courtesy of Oscar Boetticher, Jr. This is his third feature film, but the first on which he received official credit. Oscar is probably more familiar to movie buffs as “Budd.” He helmed a number of entertaining B-films—like The Missing Juror (1944) and Behind Locked Doors (1948) —before achieving critical success with Bullfighter and the Lady in 1951, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Motion Picture Story (which he shared with Ray Nazarro). However, he’s most revered for a series of low-budget westerns made in tandem with cowboy great Randolph Scott and producer Harry Brown. Seven Men from Now (1956), The Tall T (1957), Ride Lonesome (1959), and the like have acquired considerable cache with fans of the genre.

20588One Mysterious Night is one of three Boston Blackie films available on DVD, part of Sony Home Video’s manufactured-on-demand series (MOD). Next up in the catalog: Lloyd Corrigan returns to his Arthur Manleder role for the last time in Boston Blackie Booked on Suspicion (1945), which finds the whole gang mixed up in bookstore shenanigans involving a rare first edition by Charles Dickens. As always, we encourage you to check out our CD collection Outside the Law and listen to the radio adventures of the man who’s an “enemy to those who make him an enemy…friend to those who have no friends.”

One Comment

  1. […] and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), to name only a few. Even the director’s prolific B-output—One Mysterious Night (1944; one of the Boston Blackie pictures), The Missing Juror (1944), Escape in the […]

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