Thank you, thank you, thank you, Amazon Prime Video. When desperate for a really bad movie to review, I can always count on Amazon to come through. Sometime in recent months a person at Amazon must have approached the keeper of the Motion Picture Historical Society (assuming there is such a society) celluloid vaults and said, “How would you like to unload a few tons of ancient stock?” Due to that, if you want it, Amazon’s got it. This one was originally incubated by E.I. Chadwick Productions, and the Amazon stream has an extra few seconds up front of the titles tipping to Weiss Global Enterprises as the distributor.
It’s Wayne Murder Case, without use of the definite article. Interestingly, Wikipedia, where I’m getting details, lists it as A Strange Adventure, with the alternative title The Wayne Murder Case, with the definite article. I’m going with what shows up when you play the movie, which you can for free on YouTube. This came out in 1932, about five years after they first added sound to movies.
And it shows. It shows an industry trying to find its footing and still trying to figure out how actors should speak their parts. Apparently sound pictures required more dialog than was fed to silent viewers, and industry writers were not up to the task of making the characters emote using their voices. The film comes off as a pantomime with words dubbed in.
Here’s a rundown of the plot.
The opening scene shows blatantly dishonest private secretary Claude Wayne (Eddie Phillips) opening a safe in somebody’s private study. He removes a copy of the owner’s will, peruses it in dismay, then places it back into the safe. Before closing the safe he substitutes a fake diamond for the very large real one that was there. Then his boss (and uncle), Silas Wayne (William V. Mong) comes in.
All right, this gets tricky. After Claude leaves Silas opens the safe and at one point notices a dried flower that had fallen from within the folds of the will onto the floor. Suspicious, Silas examines the diamond and figures it is fake. He summons Claude and accuses him of treachery. But Claude puts the real diamond back, and on a second examination Silas figures he was mistaken about his initial assessment. Then Claude makes the switch again and departs.
Silas, who is roundly disliked, has no children, but does have numerous heirs. All have been waiting in the large house to be summoned for the signing of the will. Silas, who “owns half the town,” summons two police to come to his house to witness what may be a crime (?). Here we see Harry Meyers as Officer Ryan and Eddie Chandler as Officer Kelly (I can’t tell which is which) getting out of their police car in front of the Wayne mansion. Watching this for the first time I wondered at the ability of the studio to incorporate this vintage piece of road iron. But then I realized this was likely a vehicle borrowed off the dealer’s lot back in 1932.
Anyhow, everybody, including the two police officers, attends the reading and signing of the will. They also witness Silas Wayne getting murdered right in front of their eyes, and nobody can figure out who did it.
First come’s police Detective-Sergeant Mitchell (Regis Toomey). Then arrives a gaggle of reporters, among which is one named “Nosey” Toodles (June Clyde). She sneaks into the house to scoop the other reporters, and Mitchell cannot find it in himself to get rid of her.
Amazingly, a credited actor is Snowflake playing the part of Jeff, the butler. Don’t you just love those movies from 80 years ago when a bowing and scraping subservient character needed to be played by a black man who comes off as illiterate, stupid, and superstitious? I’m impressed he received credit right up front in the titles sequence. His real name was Fred Toones.
Because of the sheer number of movies in which he appeared, Toones is one of the most prolific character faces in B-Westerns and cliffhangers. He appeared in over 200 films between 1928 and 1951; and between 1936 and 1947, Toones worked under contract for Republic Pictures, appearing in about 40 of its films.
He died in 1962. I hope he enjoyed the money in the meantime.
To heighten suspense, it is found necessary to introduce a nefarious character who lurks about the house terrorizing people.
Anyhow, Detective-Sergeant Mitchell solves the case, but not before one additional person is murdered. Watch it on YouTube or Amazon if you want to find out who done it.