Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Shot in the Dark (1935)

While at a party at his college campus Ken Harris gets a call from his dad saying that he's nearby and would like to see him. Ken goes that night to pick up his dad and bring him back to stay in his dorm room. Ken sends his dad up to the room while he parks the car. When Ken arrives at his room he finds that the door is locked and neither his dad nor his roommate will answer the knocks. Ken then crashes for the night in a downstairs friends room. In the morning Ken is awoken by a banging outside. It seems that Ken's roommate has committed suicide by hanging himself out the window. It quickly transpires that what appeared to be suicide was in fact murder and the murderer is still on the prowl.

This is a solid little mystery that unfolds in such away as to keep you glued to the screen wondering whats going to happen next. The investigation, nominally headed by Ken's dad moves along at a good clip and in a logical progression with events, including more murders, coming out of what is revealed in the story. Each clue leads to something else which leads to something else. This is one of the few times that you can feel the source novel actually working well with in the frame work of a 60 minute movie, and where the compression of the story doesn't lead to a moment or two where something seems to come completely out of left field. The film is also unique in that contrary to most mysteries of the period (or mysteries period) the local cops are not buffoons. While they admit that murder is beyond them (the deputy says about all they're used to is speeders) they do make a go of investigating the crime and acquit themselves nicely.

As good as the film is its not perfect. The pacing is a tad slow since the film is has a great deal of talk (though this is not a bad thing). There is one moment where the scenes seem to have been placed out of order with Ken's dad talking about working with the police and in the next scene has a conversation with the police about working with them. The film's main sin is that while we get all of the required information there are times where characters and situations get the short shrift. There are times when I felt we could have known a character more or that perhaps they could have added a scene that lead to something (the discovery of the murder weapon for example).

Still this is a great little flick. Worth a bag of popcorn and some soda on the couch with some friends.(Possibly as part of Murder on Campus which has some of the same cast and also set on a college campus)

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