EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|PENGUIN POOL MURDER, THE (director: George Archainbaud; screenwriters: Willis Goldbeck/based on a story by Lowell Brentano and the novel by Stuart Palmer; cinematographer: Henry Gerrard; editor: Jack Kitchin; music: Max Steiner; cast: Edna May Oliver (Hildegarde Withers), Robert Armstrong (Barry Costello), James Gleason (Oscar Piper), Mae Clarke (Gwen Parker), Donald Cook (Philip Seymour), Edgar Kennedy (Donovan), Joe Hermano (Chicago Lew), Guy Usher (Gerald Parker), Gustav von Seyffertitz(Dr. Max Bloom); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Kenneth Macgowan/David O. Selznick; RKO; 1932)|
crime detective narrative."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
could have had one of the great detective
series which it launched in 1932, which starred Edna May Oliver in The Penguin Pool
Murder. But she left the series
after only two more
installments, leading to a rapid decline
in the quality of future films. Veteran B-film director
Archainbaud ("Hunt the Man
Down"/"Wagon Team"/"Apache Country") does a great job with the pacing
and comic timing to tell in his unique visual style this most engaging
crime detective narrative. The witty screenplay by Willis Goldbeck is based
a story by Lowell Brentano and the novel by Stuart Palmer.
In the opening scene the New York City
Aquarium director Bertrand
Hemingway (Clarence Wilson) violently complains on the
phone to his unscrupulous stock broker Gerald Parker (Guy Usher) that
he cheated him and thereby he lost all his money. At home Gerald
accuses his pretty trophy wife Gwen (Mae Clarke) of being unfaithful, as he
overhears her talking to her former lover Philip Seymour (Donald Cook) about meeting him at the aquarium and
slaps her hard across the face.
At the aquarium,
sharp-tongued elderly spinster schoolteacher Hildegarde Martha
Withers (Edna May Oliver) trips up
deaf-mute pickpocket Chicago Lew (Joe Hermano), but he
escapes from the bumbling police. Then Ms. Withers halts her class
tour, as she asks her students to find her missing hatpin. The pin is
found by the side of the penguin pool, where Gerald's dead body is
found floating in the penguin pool.
Oscar Piper (James Gleason) heads the investigation, but Ms. Withers
proves to be a better detective and teams up with the inspector in his
investigation despite this being a blow to his pride. Meanwhile
ambulance chasing lawyer Barry Costello
(Robert Armstrong) talks murder suspect Gwen into retaining him
as his lawyer and her sappy boyfriend Philip confesses to a crime he
didn't commit by saying he drowned the vic.
the medical lab report comes back saying that the victim's cause of
death was that he was stabbed in the right ear by Ms. Withers'
hatpin and not drowned as first thought, Ms. Withers
lays a plan down to trap the clever killer.
Edna May Oliver was perfect
for this role, and her feisty performance made the film glide along at
a fast pace. It's a gem; a film far superior to the Charlie Chan serial
and most others of the same type--and, in my opinion, the Oliver
characterization is even more entertaining than Agatha Christie's Miss
REVIEWED ON 9/25/2010 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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