Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Murder in the Fleet (1935) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

MURDER IN THE FLEET is an MGM murder mystery starring Robert Taylor in one of his earliest roles. It's a new release from the Warner Archive.

Like last night's mystery MURDER IN THE PRIVATE CAR (1934), MURDER IN THE FLEET prominently features Una Merkel in the supporting cast. Jean Parker is Taylor's love interest, with Nat Pandleton costarring.

Taylor plays an officer aboard the USS Carolina, which is under a tight deadline to test a new weapons system. Someone on board is sabotaging the test and killing people in the process.

Due to the murders, visitors to the ship are kept on board while things are sorted out, and the story takes on sort of an "old dark house at sea" feel, as one by one people are bumped off -- or if they're lucky, simply bumped in the head.

This is a fairly tepid mystery as this kind of movie goes. Taylor is incredibly handsome, but it's a bland role, and Jean Parker, so charming in LITTLE WOMEN (1933), plays a spoiled brat.

Pendleton can be funny in small doses but he has a huge amount of screen time here, and much of it is with the annoying Ted Healy, playing a contractor working on the ship. Pendleton and Healy spar over Merkel, who is stuck on the ship due to the security lockdown.

Some of the fun for a film fan is recognizing faces, such as realizing that it's Ward Bond as the sailor looking over someone's shoulder, or Keye Luke as secretary to the consul (Mischa Auer).

All in all the film is a mildly entertaining 69 minutes, but only just. Taylor would soon go on to better things, rising to the "A" list ranks after being loaned out to Universal for MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION (1935) that same year.

MURDER IN THE FLEET was directed by Edward Sedgwick and shot by Milton Krasner.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print, and the disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


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