Friday, July 05, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Roadhouse Murder (1932) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

The pre-Code crime film THE ROADHOUSE MURDER (1932) was just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

THE ROADHOUSE MURDER is really almost three movies in one: Newspaper movie, "old dark house" thriller, and crime/courtroom film. Unfortunately, none of the angles are very good, thanks to an increasingly silly story and the lead performance of Eric Linden.

Chick Brian (Linden) is a struggling cub reporter working for editor Jeff Dale (Roscoe Karns). Chick loves Mary (Dorothy Jordan, THE SEARCHERS) but her father disapproves; Chick is anxious for career success in order to win over Mary's father.

While out on a secret date, Chick and Mary are caught in a rainstorm. The cover of Chick's convertible is broken and so the soaked couple take refuge at spooky, deserted roadside inn, the Lame Dog. Inside the inn the couple stumble across a pair of murders just committed by Fred Dykes (Bruce Cabot, in his first credited role), but Fred's moll (Phyllis Clare) persuades him not to kill Chick and Mary as well.

Chick and Mary find evidence left behind by Dykes and his gal, including the woman's purse, but instead of taking it to the police, Chick gets the idea that he'll get the story of a framing himself for the murder! Then eventually he'll hand over the evidence to clear himself.

Yes, nearly a quarter century before Dana Andrews did a similarly idiotic thing in Fritz Lang's BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (1956), another writer does the very same thing, with equally disastrous results. (Why Chick thinks writing the "Diary of a Hunted Man" will be good for his long-term career plans is beyond me.)

For those who may be wondering, THE ROADHOUSE MURDER was written by the film's director, J. Walter Ruben, based on a novel by Maurice Level, while BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT was written by Douglas Morrow based on his own story.

Mary works with the police (including the always-wonderful David Landau) to locate the real criminal and clear Chick's name before he's sent to the electric chair.

I was hoping this 73-minute film would be an enjoyable pre-Code crime film, but despite the presence of several strong actors, the story and Linden try the viewer's patience. Linden unfortunately tended to play whiny juveniles -- a good example is the same year's BIG CITY BLUES (1932) -- and this one is just more of the same. I keep hoping I'll finally see Linden in a role which changes my feelings about him, but unfortunately this isn't it; the combination of actor and role pretty much sink interest in the story.

THE ROADHOUSE MURDER was filmed by J. Roy Hunt. David O. Selznick produced for RKO.

The print and sound are of quite acceptable quality considering the movie's age. There are no extras on the disc.

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 or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


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