26 user 18 critic

Night Key (1937)

Approved | | Crime, Thriller | 2 May 1937 (USA)
The inventor of a new top-of-the-line burglar alarm system is kidnapped by a gang in order to get him to help them commit robberies.


Lloyd Corrigan


Tristram Tupper (screenplay), Jack Moffitt (screenplay) (as John C. Moffitt) | 1 more credit »

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1 nomination. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Boris Karloff ... David Mallory
Warren Hull ... Jim Travers (as J. Warren Hull)
Jean Rogers ... Joan Mallory
Alan Baxter ... John Baron aka The Kid
Hobart Cavanaugh ... Petty Louie
Samuel S. Hinds ... Stephen Ranger (as Samuel Hinds)
David Oliver ... Mike Callahan
Ward Bond ... Fingers
Frank Reicher ... Carl
Edwin Maxwell ... Kruger


The inventor of a new top-of-the-line burglar alarm system is kidnapped by a gang in order to get him to help them commit robberies.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Thriller


Approved | See all certifications »





English | Italian

Release Date:

2 May 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Alerte la nuit See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Character actor Lloyd Corrigan, an inexperienced director, had replaced Sidney Salkow, who had replaced Arthur Lubin, who had replaced Ralph Murphy. See more »


Featured in 100 Years of Horror: Boris Karloff (1996) See more »

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User Reviews

Seen on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater in 1976
30 January 2014 | by kevinolzakSee all my reviews

1937's "Night Key" came during Hollywood horror's lean period, proving that even at his home studio, Universal had no more idea what to do with 'horror star' Boris Karloff than did their counterparts over at Warners, who (after "The Walking Dead") cast him as a comic Oriental in "West of Shanghai," a milquetoast red herring in "The Invisible Menace," a railroaded doctor ala Samuel Mudd in "Devil's Island," and a master spy in "British Intelligence." At least Boris gets a starring vehicle to finish his one picture contract extension from "The Invisible Ray," unlike co-star Bela Lugosi, whose contract was thrown away on a minibudgeted programmer, "Postal Inspector," loaded with stock disaster footage, receiving a meager fourth billing as a nightclub owner gone bad. Previously billed at Universal only as 'Karloff' (beginning with "The Black Cat"), Boris does wind up somewhat diminished in this entertaining little 'B,' as elderly electronics wizard David Mallory, who foolishly signs away the rights to his latest burglar alarm system to the same unscrupulous partner who had swindled him 20 years before, Steven Ranger, ironically played by perennial nice guy Samuel S. Hinds ("The Raven," "It's a Wonderful Life"). Now faced with an uncertain future for himself and devoted daughter Joan (Jean Rogers), the nearly blind Mallory resorts to petty mischief, with the aid of a small-time crook appropriately named 'Petty Louie' (Hobart Cavanaugh), gleefully breaking and entering (but careful not to steal) using his own device to foil Ranger's security system. Trouble really starts when a criminal gang headed by 'The Kid' (Alan Baxter) decide to use Mallory's invention to commit real robberies, purposely leaving clues to incriminate their unwilling accomplice. Lovely Jean Rogers, Flash Gordon's Dale Arden, is ably supported by J. Warren Hull, Karloff's former co-star in "The Walking Dead," continuing his crime fighting ways by starring in "The Spider's Web," "The Spider Returns," "Mandrake the Magician," and "The Green Hornet Strikes Again." Interesting to see dependable Frank Reicher and Ward Bond in major villain roles, while Edwin Maxwell ("Mystery of the Wax Museum") is perfectly in character as Mallory's shady lawyer, selling him down the river. Director Lloyd Corrigan only had one further feature before switching to full time acting by 1939, gracing such future Universals as "Dark Streets of Cairo," "North to the Klondike," "Mystery of Marie Roget," "Eyes of the Underworld," "Captive Wild Woman," and "She-Wolf of London." Despite its inclusion in Universal's popular SHOCK! television package of the late 50s, "Night Key" has predictably remained under the radar ever since, even among Karloff fans. Classics like "Frankenstein" and "The Mummy" had already aired multiple times on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater before they finally got around to this one (twice)- Sept 18 1976 (preceding 1934's "The Man Who Reclaimed His Head") and June 24 1978 (following 1946's "She-Wolf of London").

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