Friday, September 13, 2019
Murder at Midnight (1931)
A party at the Kennedy household is rocked when a friendly game of charades turns into murder! Both Mr. Kennedy and his business partner end up dead, and yet the police show up several minutes early, called by a mystery person. Eager to solve the mystery, the police comb the area and interview every guest and household member. They soon find several suspects, but when more bodies start hitting the floor, the true facts of the case gradually become apparent...
Murder at Midnight gets off to a super cheesy start, but this turns out to be an amusing misdirect. One that I was happily right about! I also expected what'd happen next, but I can't claim credit for that, as it's a pretty well-worn = in whodunnits. That is to say, it's always a pleasure seeing it again, wondering what'll be handled differently this time, but it's not exactly unexpected. The moment characters start doing charades in a murder-mystery, someone dies! Since this is from 1931, I imagine Murder at Midnight was an early example of this trope, in film at least.
Before the reveal of the misdirect, it seemed that this film was getting off to an ultra quick start. However, once we're in the main section, the plot still kicks into gear very quickly! Because of the almost hurried beginning, the rest of the movie feels slow-paced, but thankfully never boring, though a couple of scenes could've been trimmed a little.
The mystery is well handled. Because the movie is an outright bloodbath though, with four victims, I thought that made the mystery seem a little too easy. "Well obviously they are the killer! They'd have to be!", and I actually grea rather =, thinking the solution was gonna be this obvious]. Then I ended up being totally blindsided by a shocking reveal! I'll say nothing except that this is one = whodunnit, worthy of credit!
The murders here are pretty creative! Some are quite ghoulish, too.
Just about every single character in this movie is shifty, and you don't trust anyone as far as you can throw 'em. Unfortunately most of these characters end up being pure red herrings, and we get very little focus on the actual guilty parties.
The criminologist Phillip Montrose is a sporadic main character, but you do feel like he is working the whole time, observing everything from the sidelines and quietly piecing the case together in his head. His intelligence makes him a nice lead despite his limited screentime.
In the criminologist's absences, Inspector Taylor is the defacto protagonist, and he's a funny sort. Quick with a joke, and smart enough to know what's really going on, even if = dictate he be sent on the wrong track every now and again.
The rest of the characters are an amusing bunch. The butler and maid look shifty enough to win a = competition, the brother is so jumpy that he's got to be hiding something (yet is he?), and Aunt Julia is hilarious to watch, and becomes more likeable the longer you see her.
One of my favourite things about Murder at Midnight is the creative direction, which I found great for 1931! There are many interestingly framed shots, both close-up and from afar.
Less appealing is the sound. This is one of those movies where the lack of music really drones on after a while. Overall the pacing could've been improved if some scenes were shortened, some characters cut, and a soundtrack added to liven things up.
Murder at Midnight has a few minor problems, but is otherwise a quite clever and entertaining detective picture, right at the dawn of the genre's boom in popularity...