Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spies and/or ghosts threaten sea voyage

Mystery Liner (aka "The Ghost of John Holling") (1934)
Starring: Cornelius Keefe, Edwin Maxwell, Astrid Allwyn, Boothe Howard, Zeffie Tilbury, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Howard C. Hickman, George Hayes, and Noah Beery
Director: William Nigh
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A passenger liner is used for a covert experiment that will allow ships to be remote controlled and thus revolutionize modern sea warfare (modern here being 1934). But, agents of "hostile foreign powers" threaten the project, the ship's captain (Beery) has gone insane, and a shadowy figure is creeping about the ship murdering people. Will Major Pope (Maxwell) save the day by untangling the mystery and unmaking a double-agent who is closer to the experiment than anyone suspects?

"Mystery Liner" has all the elements of being a really fun "detective thriller meets mad scientist" tale, but it's too talky, has just a touch too many subplots for a film that only runs an hour, and gets bogged down in the middle and becomes very, very boring. A couple of twists near the end will revive the interest of viewers who stick with it, but they really aren't interesting enough to warrant sitting throgh the lead-up.

With average camera work and staging, blah acting all around, and uninteresting, flat characters, the only strong part of this film is the core story concepts, and they're not interesting enough to lift it above a very low 4 rating.

(Triva: This film was based on a story by Edgar Wallace, a very popular mystery/thriller writer during the first quarter of the 20th century. Hundreds of films were made that adapted his work, and I think I've seen around a dozen. None have been all that good, however.)

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