|MURDER ON THE BLACKBOARD (director: George Archainbaud; screenwriters: Willis Goldbeck/adapted from the story in Murder Mysteries magazine by Stuart Palmer; cinematographer: Nick Musuraca; editor: Archie F. Marshek; music: Max Steiner; cast: James Gleason (Inspector Oscar Piper), Edna May Oliver (Hildegarde Withers), Barbara Fritchie (Louise Halloran), Gertrude Michael (Janey Davis), Bruce Cabot (Addison Stevens), Tully Marshall (MacFarland), Frederik Vogeding (Otto Schweitzer), Regis Toomey (Smiley North), Edgar Kennedy (Sgt. Donahue), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Otto Schweitzer), Jackie Searle (Leland Jones); Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pandro S. Berman; RKO; 1934)|
by Dennis Schwartz
Follow-up to the hit comedy crime drama The Penguin Pool Murder, again helmed by B film director George Archainbaud ("Fool's Gold"/"Alaska"/"Mystery Man") and the murder solved by a schoolmarm hilariously played by Edna May Oliver. Only this one is not as good--too much of the comedy seems forced. It's adapted by writer Willis Goldbeck from the story in Murder Mysteries magazine by Stuart Palmer. The crime story is weak, but the banter between the prim single elementary school Hildegarde Withers (Edna May Oliver) and the hardboiled NYPD police inspector Oscar Piper (James Gleason) is a hoot, as she disses the cops as morons at every opportunity. The dim-witted cop's best investigation strategy is to try and bully a confession out of his suspects by telling them "Come clean now, or we'll let the boys go to work on you."
music teacher Louise Halloran (Barbara
Fritchie) is slain in the cloak-room of her
Manhattan elementary school when classes end and her
body is discovered by Miss Withers, who again calls
Inspector Oscar Piper to investigate and
proudly reminds him her detective work solved The
Penguin Pool Murder. When Hildegarde
takes the cigar chomping inspector to the corpse, it
has disappeared. The cops and Hildegarde search the
empty school for the corpse and murderer. The
amateur sleuth finds musical notes on the slain
teacher's blackboard that she's sure are valuable
clues, and tries throughout to whistle the
tune. Meanwhile Sgt. Donahue (Edgar Kennedy)
is searching the dark basement and gets knocked
unconscious, and recovers in the hospital but still
can't recall who slugged him until after the case is
The suspects include the incompetent slovenly drunk janitor Otto (Frederik Vogeding) and fellow teachers Addison Stevens (Bruce Cabot) and Jane Davis (Gertrude Michael), and the skirt chasing principal (Tully Marshall). The cops believe the janitor did it, but Hildegarde believes it was either the victim's roommate Jane or shop teacher/assistant principal Addison, who was secretly involved with Louise over the summer vacation until his recent romance with Jane.
REVIEWED ON 1/19/2014 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ