Saturday, October 15, 2011

House of Mystery (1934)

Director: William Nigh

Starring: Ed Lowry, Verna Hillie, John Sheehan, Brandon Hurst, Joyzelle Joyner, Fritzi Ridgeway, Clay Clement, George 'Gabby' Hayes

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Out of the Mystic Temples of Old India crept this terrible Monster ... to wreak vengeance of the Hindu Gods ... One by one its victims fell with not a trace of the bloody assassin.

Plot: This "Old Dark House" melodrama features popular radio performer Ed Lowry as an insurance investigator who, among several others, accepts an invitation to a creepy mansion whose owner ostensibly offers his collected guests a chance to obtain a fortune in rare jewels looted from a Hindu temple. The proceedings are decidedly darkened, however, by hints of an ancient curse attached to the purloined gems, made more credible when the guests begin dropping like flies.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

HoM is one of those murder mystery pictures that was so common back in the 30s and 40s. The slant on this one is a stolen Indian treasure and the curse that was put upon those who took it (sound familiar?). It's pretty standard but it does have its moments of intentional and unintentional laughter.

The picture starts with the archeologist, Prendergast, walking into a bar to get his liquor on when a gang of archeologitsts start to put some heat on him...

They toss him out of the bar and his drunken ass makes its way to a sacred Indian temple. He becomes biligerant when the locals give him shit for entering uninvited after having killed a monkey belonging to one of their own. The priest brings to life a killer gorilla and the chase is on! Prendergast hooks up with an Indian dancer who aids in his escape. A newspaper shows us that the treasure in the temple was stolen. Gee, I wonder who did it. Cut to 20 years later in modern day 1934 where we find out that Prendergast had been sent to India to search for archeological artifacts to be given to the investors of the expidition except Prendergast was never heard from again.

The battle axe on the right, one of the surviving investors, claims to have seen a man who calls himself Mr. Pren, believes him to be Pendergast and wants him investigated. The lawyer that handled the investor's interest in the expedition agrees and discovers that Pren is in fact Prendergast. Pren invites all of the surviving investors to his lavish home to tell them of his adventure and the curse and to leave it up to them if they want the burden of sharing the treasure now.

One by one the guests are murdered. Who's the killer? There's your story. There's a seance where the "medium" enlists the otherworldly help of Pocahontas! There are a bunch of quirky characters including a love-sick, spastic insurance salesman, the batty psychic, a handyman who looks like he's one of the Mario Brothers and a dumbass detective.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY is silly and has everything you need for a lighthearted mystery/thriller/horror flick including a man in an ape costume. A lot of people die and the ending is quite satisfactory once the killer is revealed. It will keep you guessing and you might chuckle along the way but it's not a strong winner. It's light entertainment with a horror slant but if you don't expect an awful lot you just might enjoy yourself.

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