Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Mystery of Mr. X (1934)


Mystery films in the 1930s are, to me, fascinating to watch. If they were dramatic they were sleek, sly, sexy, tense, and dangerous. If they were comedies they were also sleek and sexy but of course they were funny and very smart and very quick and witty. Mystery of Mr. X was a great mix of drama and comedy. The story keeps you glued to the screen wondering who the killer is as well as Robert Montgomery keeping you on your toes with his witty dialogue and delivery. It is a great mix of the dramatic and comedic mysteries from the 1930s.
            A police officer working on the docks in London has been murdered. He is the fifth police officer to be murdered by a man dubbed simply as X. The police have found the murdered officers were all stabbed in the heart with a sword. A young woman named Jane (Elizabeth Allan) is the daughter of the head of Scotland Yard. He had been away on vacation for time and is now back to in the midst of all the chaos.
            A man named Revel (Robert Montgomery was stealing jewels from a wealthy home when another officer was killed by X this time while he was patrolling the grounds of the home. Revel’s partners tell him to get rid of the stone it is too hot right now they do not want to be found with it. Revel tells them he will return the diamond once X is caught. The diamond he has stolen is calls the Britain Diamond. Now the police believe he is the murderer.
            Jane’s fiancée Chris got drunk and messed around with a police officer by taking his hat. When Chris tan away X killed the officer. Now Chris has become a suspect since he was the last to see the officer alive. Revel has a plan. He knows Chris is not X. He has his friend Palmer a cabdriver to say he saw Chris run away with the hat. The lawyers and a judge ask Palmer to identify his customer he had in his cab that night. He points to Revel. Chris is fined one hundred pounds and put in jail for ten days for disturbing a police officer and public intoxication. While Chris is away Revel and Jane start to see each other.
            The police search Revel’s apartment thinking he is X. The superintendent of police brings Revel out onto the street. He has two other officers accuse him of stealing their wallets so they can search him for the diamond. Palmer comes up in his cab after Revel called. Revel hands Palmer the diamond in a pound note while the officers are standing right next to him. After this incident the police are now following Revel. They see that Jane is with Revel at his flat. They send a message as Revel asking Chris to meet him at his apartment. Chris is not happy to see Jane with Revel and breaks off their engagement.
            Revel sends the diamond to police. The police question a man Revel had brought the diamond to to be checked out. The man will not talk because he is nervous. The superintendent wants Revel even though the man does not say his name.
            Revel and Palmer plot out on a man where X has killed the officers and see that their points on the map make one large “X”. He dresses up like an officer to go out where X will strike. He puts the map he drew in his coat pocket and drops it where Jane’s father could find it.
            Revel’s plan to lure X to him works. The man nearly kills him with his sword a few times and in a fist fight. The police make it to the warehouse before Revel is seriously hurt.
            Robert Montgomery was so good as Revel. I can imagine Montgomery playing a Revel-type character but as a good as a detective. Montgomery would have a made a great detective in a series in something along the lines of Nick Charles or Perry Mason. He was classy, witty, quick, handsome, and serious enough to be a mix of Nick and Perry. Elizabeth Allan was cute. I felt like I had seen her in another film before but I cannot place her. She and Montgomery had very good chemistry.

            Mystery of Mr. X is a great detective/murder mystery. I liked how a thief was the one to solve the murder before the police. He had just as much a stake in the case as the police officers did. He witnessed the crime and was the one being blamed for it. It was cool to see this thief be a good guy and clear his name by catching the real bad guy. The characters down to the supporting cast was great everyone was perfect in their parts. The story was dangerous, tense, smart, quyick and witty; just what I like to see when I watch a mystery from the 1930s.  Mystery of Mr. X is unfortunately not available on DVD or on Youtube. I caught this on TCM a few months ago so keep an eye out for it on the channel.