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Warner Bros. Horror/Mystery Double Features [3 Discs] [DVD]

Release Date:10/19/2010

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    The Hidden Hand
    Everybody seems to have had a good time making the overripe melodrama The Hidden Hand, especially cadaverous Milton Parsons as insane-asylum escapee John Channing. In her efforts to protect her brother from the authorities, John's sister Lorinda (Cecil Cunningham) opens the door for a series of grisly murders. Hero Peter Thorne (Craig Stevens) and heroine Mary Winfield (Elizabeth Fraser) try to stop John before he overracts-er, kills-again. Absolutely impossible to take seriously, The Hidden Hand is nonetheless worth a glance, if for no other reason than to see perennial bit player Parsons in a juicy leading role. The film was based on Invitation to a Murder, a play by Rufus King. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Mystery House
    Mystery House is a perfunctory Warner Bros. programmer which coasts along on the appeal of its stars. When a prominent banker is murdered while on a hunting trip, the dead man's daughter, Gwen Kingery (Anne Nagel), calls in private eye Lance O'Leary (Dick Purcell) to investigate. No sooner has he started gathering clues than another murder is committed?and another?and another?.The culprit wants to cover up an embezzlement scheme, and there is certainly no shortage of suspects. Without revealing the ending, it can be noted that Mystery House offers at least one surprise when Lance O'Leary ends up falling in love not with Gwen Kingery but with wisecracking nurse Sarah Keate (Anne Sheridan). Sarah, in fact, is the leading character in the Mignon C. Eberhardt novel upon which Mystery House was based-except in the original, she's a middle-aged spinster rather than a Hollywood glamorpuss. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Smiling Ghost
    Like MGM's Whistling in the Dark, Warner Bros.' The Smiling Ghost was inspired by the success of Paramount's comedy-mystery The Ghost Breakers--even unto the casting of Ghost Breakers' Willie Best in a similar role. During a gloriously oversized thunderstorm, hapless hero Lucky Downing (Wayne Morris) arrives at the mansion of his fiancee, heiress Eleanor B. Fairchild. Lucky hopes to break the jinx that seems to hang over Eleanor, whose last three boyfriends all met with mysterious deaths ("Anyone can be bitten by a snake." "On the fourteenth floor of a New York Hotel?") To do this, he tries to solve the triple mystery himself, aided and abetted by troublesome girl reporter Lil Bastow (Brenda Marshall) and timorous black manservant Clarence (Best). After a night of terror, replete with clutching hands and sliding panels, the murderer is revealed-after which Clarence participates in a closing gag which single-handedly sets race relations back 50 years. The Smiling Ghost was cowritten by Stuart Palmer, the creator of spinster sleuth Hildegarde Withers and a past master of locked-room mysteries with a comic touch. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Sh! The Octopus
    Sh! The Octopus is a low-budget remake of Ralph Spence's oft-filmed stage melodrama The Gorilla. The old-dark-house setting of the original has been changed to a lonely lighthouse, while Spence's marauding gorilla has metamorphosed into a giant special-effects octopus. Detectives Kelly (Hugh Herbert) and Dempsey (Allen Jenkins) are summoned to the lighthouse to prevent harm from befalling heiress Verta Vernoff (Marcia Ralston). The two gumshoes seem far too preoccupied to perform their duties (Kelly is awaiting the birth of his first son), and indeed they prove so inept that at one point the heroine screams "What's the matter with you?" A series of murders occur, all attributed to the king-sized octopus, but it turns out that one of Verta's oldest and most trusted friends is responsible. Without giving anything away, it must be said that the "surprise" ending of Sh! The Octopus is one of the stupidest ever captured on film, though at least it affords Hugh Herbert and Allen Jenkins the opportunity to dress up in baby clothes! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Find the Blackmailer
    After years of faithful supporting-player service to Warner Bros., Jerome Cowan was rewarded with two starring vehicles, the first of which was Find the Blackmailer. Cowan is cast as private eyes D. L. Trees, who is hired by mayoral candidate John M. Rhodes (Gene Lockhart) to prevent any sort of adverse publicity. It seems that, somewhere in town, there's this talking blackbird (!) who insists upon saying that Rhodes will commit a murder. When the killing occurs, Rhodes is implicated, and Trees is off on a hectic pursuit of the incriminating crow-and the actual murderer. Faye Emerson is decorative as the leading lady, while the supporting cast is festooned with such "usual suspects" as John Harmon, Bradley Page and Lou Lubin. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Patient in Room 18
    Choreographer Bobby Connolly and prolific screenwriter Crane Wilbur teamed up on the direction of Warner Bros.' The Patient in Room 18. Patric Knowles delivers a delightfully comic performance as Lance, an outwardly normal young man obsessed with detective stories. When his obsession threatens to lapse over into lunacy, Lance is sent to the hospital for a nice long rest. It isn't long before he gets mixed up in a genuine murder mystery, using his second-hand knowhow to solve the case. Up-and-coming Ann Sheridan is quite amusing as Lance's nurse and confidante, while the murderer is played by a fellow who is usually cast as the murder victim. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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