Again, thank you, Amazon Prime Video. I can’t find these anywhere else. This is The Mystery Man from back in 1935, before I was born. And a remarkably clear print this is. It’s from Monogram Pictures, though the opening video shows the MGM lion, in color. Monogram is noted for a slew of low-budget productions during its time, and I have reviewed a slew or two.
I’m guessing “the mystery man” is a criminal chap known as “The Eel” (LeRoy Mason), which fact I had to figure out on my own. But he comes in later. Opening shots show a high-profile meeting of staff in a Chicago newspaper. Ace reporter Larry Doyle (Robert Armstrong) is receiving an award. His reporting is credited with bringing down a notorious crime figure. Managing Editor Marvin (James Burke) is hosting the confab, and Doyle is presented a .45 caliber police revolver as a prize. The weapon plays critically in the plot, but only after a lengthly string of shenanigans, to be described.
Doyle is a smart ass, and he mouths off to his boss and gets fired. He and his buddies go on a drinking binge, and when he finally comes around he is on a train pulling into Saint Louis. And just about broke. Broke also is sweet Anne Ogilvie (Maxine Doyle). They meet in a diner.
Doyle figures that since they are both in the same financial stranglehold, they should team up and con their way into some creature comforts while Doyle waits for funds to be sent from Chicago. They check into an up-scale hotel as man and wife. This could get interesting.
Funds are slow in arriving, and Doyle needs to pawn the pistol. The pawn broker is in cahoots with The Eel, and the gun enters a life of crime.
Coincidence, coincidence, Doyle meets up with the prize pistole an hour or so later. He and his squeeze treat themselves to a night out at a place called The Trocadéro. They don’t think highly of the joint and soon leave. But as they are leaving Doyle spots what turns out to be a robbery getaway car. As the dynamic duo watch from hiding, a policeman arrives and engages in a gun battle with the driver. Both are killed. Then The Eel exits, bag of cash in hand. He ambushes the security guy who comes looking for him. In the mean time, Doyle has secreted himself in the getaway car, and The Eel hands him the money by mistake before hightailing it out on foot.
Doyle figures he has the case wrapped up. He has The Eel’s money, and he knows where The Eel tossed the pistol. For reasons baffling to me, Doyle and Anne take the money back to their hotel room while Doyle works to parlay his position into a lucrative news story.
The tables are turned when it is revealed the gun that killed the security guy is the one presented to Doyle the previous day in Chicago and pawned just prior to the murder. The pawn broker fibs to the police, telling them he was shown the gun but never accepted it. He points his finger at Doyle.
The police give Doyle an opportunity to unravel the crime story, and Doyle and Anne go back to the pawn shop, where Doyle confronts the broker and punches him out.
About that time The Eel comes, looking for his money, which was supposed to have been delivered to the pawn shop by the driver, now dead. When The Eel spots Doyle posing as the pawn broker, he corners him in the back room and offers him his life in exchange for the money.
But Anne has been hiding in a closet and she lets fly a shot that takes down the notorious Eel. And that’s how Larry and Anne wind up getting married.
Acting is top tier, and so is direction and cinematography. The plot is a can of worms. It starts in Chicago and works its way by means of a miracle not fully explained to Saint Louis. Then there is the lengthy saga of Larry and Anne getting to know each other and conniving to keep afloat until backup funds arrive. Finally, well past the half way point, the gun begins to play in the plot, and there is the crime and the resolution in the last few minutes. An award for drama does not await.
And that’s what gets this one the Bad Movie of the Week.