The Sphinx (1933)
"I know what is what, and I know what is not what!"
3 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
If you're scoring this one on the basis of what came out of the early talkie era, then it's actually pretty good. Lionel Atwill does double duty in the picture as millionaire socialite Jerome Breen and his deaf mute brother. About half way into the picture with the dead bodies piling up, I had a sneaky suspicion that the film makers were going to pull this ruse to make the story seem plausible, but having the 'hidden' Breen sibling pop up every time the secret door was opened was just a little too obvious, not to mention hokey. I realize these Poverty Row productions couldn't keep you guessing for much more than an hour, so I guess they did the best they could here.

You know what seemed really dumb to me? Near the end of the story, when reporter Burton (Theodore Newton), and Detective Casey (what? - that was Gabby Hayes!!) hear Burton's gal Jerry (Sheila Terry) scream for help inside the Breen mansion, they make a mad dash for the entrance, and then wind up knocking on the door!! What?!?!

If you're a fan of these old time mysteries, you'll note a couple of elements that would wind up being repeated in subsequent films. For example, Charlie Chan used a coin toss to test the hearing of a supposedly deaf person more than once, in "Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise" (1940), and later on in "Dark Alibi" (1946). There was also a variation of the poison ring gimmick in the 1945 flick "The Shanghai Cobra". I'm sure there are other films that recycle similar gimmicks like this, but these are the ones that readily come to mind. Oh, and by the way, the cruise director in that Chan movie I just mentioned - it was Lionel Atwill!
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