Mystery Liner (1934)

Article #998 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-8-2003
Posting Date: 5-6-2004
Directed by William Nigh
Featuring Noah Beery, Astrid Allyn, Edwin Maxwell

An ocean liner is the site of experiments involving a robot pilot device called the S-505. Unfortunately, it also becomes the site of murders.

This movie is based on a novel by Edgar Wallace, and consequently, there are some interesting plot elements here; in fact, I’m sure there’s a decent plot in here somewhere. Unfortunately, the whole thing is directed in that static bottom-of-the-barrel early Monogram style in which people stand around, talk and stare at each other, all without the benefit of background music. When the characters are novel enough to catch our attention (Noah Beery’s Captain Hollings or Zeffie Tilbury’s Granny character), you can get by, but almost always these are either minor secondary characters (you don’t see much of Beery after his first scene) or comic relief characters with little relation to the main plot. As a result, the endless scenes of exposition are deadly, so that by the time you get to the exciting sequences you really don’t care much anymore. You might entertain yourself by keeping your eyes open for Gustav von Seyffertitz or a beardless George “Gabby” Hayes, but overall, this is perhaps the weakest Edgar Wallace adaptation I’ve ever seen.

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