This is a curiously structured murder mystery because the running time is about the usual 55 minutes for this film series, but it takes 30 minutes for the first murder to happen. That actually works surprisingly well, because we know there is going to be one and the suspense builds up to that moment. When it happens, it’s not the murder we were probably expecting. Clever stuff.
The story is established in a way that would lead us to presume that Frank Weyman is going to be the victim. He’s a walking cliché of a man who normally gets murdered in these kinds of mysteries; he’s filthy rich through not entirely honest means, separated from his angry wife, in a relationship with a woman who is much younger than him, and she’s also involved with somebody else. He has made enemies. In any other murder mystery he would be bumped off in the first ten minutes. Instead, this subverts the usual pattern and the man who would normally be the prime suspect is the first to die. Fraser is such a slimy, nasty piece of work that the police could be forgiven for putting that down as a community service from somebody and leaving it at that, but instead Detective Inspector Minter does some detective inspecting.
“Fraser was killed because he was going to give me some information.”
As with all murder mysteries, there’s not a lot of point trying to assess how guessable the murderer is, because there will always be viewers who say “aha, I figured it out after five minutes”, or “I never saw that coming until the big reveal”, but despite a good line-up of potential suspects the majority of them are far too obvious to be the murderer. An extra character is added into the mix halfway through, a neighbour who gives refuge to Weyman’s sacked butler Fraser, and has a huge grudge against Weyman, but it’s pretty obvious he’s going to be a red herring, and introducing a murderer so late in the game would break all the rules of these kinds of mysteries anyway, but he’s still a fun character who seems almost to thrive on his bitterness.
“Killing Weyman wouldn’t be enough. I want to see him grovel as I was made to.”
There is a rather odd attempt to show the beginnings of a reconciliation between the two of them right at the end, which is a lovely message of forgiveness but seems entirely unrealistic considering Weyman’s past actions and the impact they have had on Elliott.
Towards the end there is an entertaining action set piece, with a sabotaged boat engine catching fire. If only they had some water somewhere to help with that… oh, wait, they do. That’s the point at which the identity of the murderer is clear beyond a doubt, reinforced by the sergeant drawing the obvious and therefore entirely wrong conclusion that the target of the sabotage cannot also be the saboteur. But that’s how things tend to work in murder mysteries. The detective sees all the possibilities, while his sergeant voices the obvious mistakes. Basically, he’s there to be the stupid one, and elevate the abilities of the detective by comparison.
Minter needs a lot of patience though. He is frequently kept hanging around while the man he is supposed to protect rants and raves at people on the phone, while appearing to be gentle to the point of cowardice in person. At least Minter gets to conduct his investigations at a very pleasant country estate, with huge gardens and an almost palatial residence. How the other half live… although I don’t much like that wallpaper. It’s so busy that the pictures on the wall are virtually camouflaged. If the murderer wanted to go undetected he would only need to wear a flowery shirt and stand up against a wall. I suppose however rich somebody becomes, money can’t buy good taste, although he has one thing right. He knows how to deal with a stressful situation. Have a cup of tea.
“Tea. The Englishman’s answer to everything.”
Quite right too. Article written. Kettle on. See you next time. RP
Read next in the Junkyard… The Edgar Wallace Mysteries: Man Detained