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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Murder by Television (1935) - Clifford Sanforth

With a plot just as muddled as the audio. This forgettable film can stay that way. A mystery movie with horror overtones and starring Bela Lugosi. On paper the movie looks like its going to be fantastic! However, the product is sub par even for it's time. Not that this movie is great but it still deserves it's day in the sun. Swallowed by time and overshadowed by true classics like The Bride of Frankenstein, Mad Love, and Werewolf of London. 

Television hadn't been widely distributed by the time this movie was made. It actually features a concept of a home television that was being developed in Hollywood. Although interesting. The praise ends there. This movie is in no way a benchmark for Lugosi and serves as a lukewarm achievement in his career. June Collyer returns to the horror genre in a usual role as the daughter of the late James Houghland, a television inventor invested in a vicious feud with a rival TV inventor. Not even the humor from Hattie McDaniel and the rest of the "help" could save this movie. 

Overall, this movie is forgettable. However, I feel really bad about it. I want to like the movie. Although it's boring and flat. The movie is really inventive and fun. It's an original twist on the usual boring fare. These mystery horror mash ups are a dime a dozen in the thirties. Unfortunately they get swept under the rug. In a few years people might even stop talking about these old pieces of cinema history. 

Don't mind Ah Ling. He has a mania for quoting Confucius... and Charlie Chan.
  • For the scenes showing television equipment, the filmmakers borrowed it from L.A.-area researchers who were working on experimental TV. The equipment they borrowed was worth $75,000 - over twice the $35,000 production budget for the film.
  • When Isabella (the cook) finds the body at the top of the stairs, she simply disappears into thin air. (This may be due to missing footage in the extant print, rather than an error by the original filmmakers.)
  • Stars Bela Lugosi, June Collyer, and Hattie McDaniel... all stars. Quite the star studded cast for such a bad movie. 


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