I’ve written about Police Commissioner Thatcher Colt before, both in books and movies. Author Charles Futon Oursler, probably best known for his novel THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, wrote crime fiction under the name Anthony Abbot. Police Commissioner Thatcher Colt appeared in eight novels starting in 1931. Two films with Adolphe Menjou appeared in two of them and this one starred Sidney BlackMer in the role during WWII. As was the fashion in the novels, at least those I read, Anthony Abbot(Rick Vallin) is the Commissioner’s assistant. This one seems to be an original story by Abbot with the script by Marlin Mooney.
Police find Everett P. Digberry(Byron Foulger) climbing over a cemetery wall. He’s a meek little man that makes wigs and he’s evasive at first, finally admitting that he’d left a thousand dollars in a wallet on his aunt’s grave, as per a blackmailer’s instructions. The wallet is found empty and Digby says he saw a shadow gliding to the grave, then off to one side. The only footprints found are Digby’s.
It turns out a number of people have received identical letters with the admonition DO NOT CALL THE POLICE all in capital letters. All are signed as by The Panther with a black cat paw print on each. Digby is the only one that heeded that warning. His excuse is he wanted things calm before his wife, all one hundred-eighty pounds of her, and his five daughters returned from visiting the mother-in-law.
When he gets to Colt’s office, there’s a half dozen folks there, all connected to an opera performing at a local theater. One of them, singer Nina Politza(Gerta Rozan), had planned to leave for a vacation in Buenos Aires now that the opera had concluded. She is allowed to go.
That she turns up murdered in the same building as the one Digby is staying while the family is away comes as no surprise. We already see someone, obviously the murderer, popping in and out of her apartment dressed in a suit identical to Digby’s. We never see a face, judiciously masked by a snap brim hat, and he makes sure hotel employees see him regularly, always going away, and he never speaks to them or even acknowledges their calling.
The D. A wants Digby arrested because an election is coming and he needs a big, headline case. Colt is already suspicious of the whole thing. The blackmail letters are easily traced. Another wigmaker is murdered because he can identify the mystery man he made a gray wig for. The insurance policy for twenty grand signed over to Digby. It’s all to pat for the Commissioner.
Interesting film, not especially hard to figure who the real murderer was. It’s the reason that hinges on proving Digby’s innocence so that he can make it on time to pick up the family and explain it all away.
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