The Ninth Guest (1934)

Article #830 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-23-2003
Posting Date: 11-20-2003
Directed by Roy William Neill
Featuring Donald Cook, Genevieve Tobin, Hardie Albright

A group of eight people are invited to a party by an anonymous host, and are killed off one by one.

Title check: The title is indeed relevant, and though telling you who it is doesn’t give away the story, it does give away a great line in the movie, so I’ll not say at this point who the Ninth Guest is. It’s not the comic relief butler, by the way.

The basic story format is familiar enough; anybody reading the above description will quickly figure out that this is basically a variation on “Ten Little Indians”, though it may predate the Christie story. Still, this one has a somewhat unique feel. Though each of the characters has a guilty secret that marks them for death, most of the deaths are planned in such a way that the characters bring them about by themselves; the murderer knows each one so well, he has correctly predicted what each one will do in a certain set of circumstances. Though this is somewhat far-fetched (it’s really hard to believe some of the ‘accidents’ were pre-planned), it does place a much greater emphasis on character than other movies of this ilk are apt to do, and it is very interesting to see the events unfold that cause the respective deaths. Like TLI, it remains only marginally in the horror category, though the murderer is indeed mad enough to cause the movie to qualify. It’s not up to the level of Clair’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, but it it is definitely worth a look.


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