Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Ernie Adams, Luis Alberni, Hooper Atchley, Lionel Atwill, Jack Cheatham
Director: Wilfred Lucas
Genres: Mystery & Suspense
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A slightly hokey but very entertaining murder mystery
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 12/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In most cases, stopping to ask a good fellow for a light and to inquire as to the time is not the best of strategies for a murderer leaving the scene of the crime. In The Sphinx, though, it offers said murderer an iron-clad alibi. When a prominent stockbroker is killed, a janitor named Luigi is right there in position to be the perfect witness. He swears in court that he recognizes the defendant and makes a big deal over the fact that the guy stopped to chat with him. It looks like a slam dunk case for the prosecution. There's just one teensy little problem, however - the defendant, Jerome Breen (Lionel Atwill), is a deaf-mute, as any physician can certify. The cops come off looking pretty foolish for putting the guy on trial, especially since Jerome Breen is well-known as an all-around great guy and true humanitarian. Almost no one believed he was capable of cold-blooded murder to begin with.
One man who does still suspect Breen is Jack Burton (Theodore Newton), a - you guessed it - crime reporter who fancies himself to be quite the detective. Despite the fact that he's rather pompous and undeniably annoying, the police chief keeps letting him horn in on the big cases, and he did as much as anyone to finger Breen from the start. What really drives him up the wall, though, is the fact that his would-be girl, society columnist Jerry Crane (Shelia Terry), thinks the world of Breen and makes regular visits to his home as she works on a series of favorable articles about him. I think any of us would be a little put out to see our girl making nice-nice with a guy we suspect to be a devious, cold-blooded killer. I know I would. Burton is determined to get to the truth, and he manages to get the local police to keep Breen on their radar screens.
The Sphinx is a classic 1930s whodunit. Jerry may be an independent woman pursuing her own career, but she's still just a dizzy "dame" to Burton and the cops. Burton is your prototypical journalist/investigator who thinks he knows more than the cops or anyone else. The cops themselves are great, especially Detective Terrence Aloysius Hogan (Paul Hurst), who is very much the Lestrade for Burton's Sherlock, an ambitious, publicity-seeking bungler who is only capable of solving a crime by stumbling over the crucial piece of evidence. He manages to close the film with a wonderful, "ah, that Hogan - you've gotta love him" - quip that single-handedly cemented a four-star review from this reviewer.
Egad, I've written all of this without yet mentioning Lionel Atwill's winning performance as Jerome Breen. Atwill was every bit the polished actor who turned in winning performances left and right, even in lesser-known films like this one from Monogram Pictures. Even though his character is a deaf-mute, he manages to command attention in every scene he's in, and he gives this somewhat hokey murder mystery a real aura of class and distinction."
Atwill plays the invisible keyboard.
Robert S. Clay Jr. | St. Louis, MO., USA | 11/05/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This little thriller is an early effort of Monogram Pictures, sturdy purveyors of cost conscious film. Lionel Atwill stars as a deaf-mute accused of murder. As in most low budget efforts, unintentional humor is prevalent. Atwill uses sign language to communicate. He wiggles his fingers while holding his hands palms down at waist level. This makes it appear he is vigorously playing an invisible keyboard. Once or twice wouldn't be so bad, but this takes up time through much of the film. Only his assistant, a real red herring, can interpret Atwill's thoughts. Packaged as a horror flick, the little scenario is a murder mystery with typical plot twists. A snappy newspaper couple, '30s style, trade verbal barbs as they work to solve the mystery. Luigi the janitor swears the deaf mute spoke to him as he left the crime scene. This serves as comic relief and an intriguing plot twist. The DVD transfer is average. The audio is about the same. ;-)"