Thursday 11 August 2011

Murder! - review

I have just watched a DVD of an Alfred Hitchcock rarity - a whodunit, rather than a thriller. Murder! was an early talkie from 1930, and it was based on a novel by Detection Club members Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson, Enter Sir John. In the film, Sir John Samaurez, an actor-manager, is renamed Sir John Menier, and is played by Herbert Marshall.

Sir John is a member of a jury which convicts an actress of murdering a colleague. However, he repents of his part in the verdict and sets about finding out what really happened. Suffice to say that the mystery is easily solved, but that there is a memorable finale involving a half-caste transvestite trapeze artist, the kind of character you don't find everyday in crime stories.

Marshall's performance is not very compelling, but the film, despite creakiness, does show us some of the Master's touches at a formative stage in his career. He didn't really care for whodunits, reasoning that they didn't work as well in film as thrillers, and probably he was right.

I haven't read the book, so I'm not sure how faithful the film was to the plot. But Dane and Simpson were interesting characters and I hope to write some more about them in the future. Simpson, by the way, was a very glamorous woman who also became a close friend of Dorothy L. Sayers before her death at a young age from cancer.


J F Norris said...

I was intending to write up ENTER SIR JOHN as one of the FFB posts later this month. Great minds... I've never seen the film and have been putting it off till I finish the book. (BTW - another Boileau & Narcejac post coming at the end of this week on a book you've already read, I think.)

Martin Edwards said...

Look forward to reading your views, John. I suspect our tastes are similar.

Lucy R. Fisher said...

Looks more than promising: Ordering now!