A Shot in the Dark (1935)

Article #1127 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-14-2004
Posting Date: 9-11-2004
Directed by Charles Lamont
Featuring Charles Starrett, Marion Shilling, Robert Warwick

When a college student is found hanging from the fire escape of his dormitory, an investigator looks into the matter and discovers that it was not a suicide.

I hope you’ll excuse me for going into this one expecting another “old dark house” movie; most of the plot descriptions I’ve seen tend to describe it that way. I myself don’t think the shoe fits in this case. Yes, we have a killer who appears in a hooded costume at one point, the plot involves an inheritance, and there is a sequence in a dark deserted house, but these are incidental rather than central. Instead, this movie is really a straightforward mystery; it’s really not the horror elements that move it into the realm of the fantastic but rather the existence of some slight science fiction elements surrounding the method of murder that make it qualify. It’s also a very good mystery; the discovery of the first body is memorable, an actual investigation takes place rather than having people wait around for the next murder, and most amazingly, it takes itself quite seriously indeed. Despite the fact that the sheriff and his deputy are performed with a fairly light touch, there really is no comic relief character in this movie, which would be de rigeur for an “old dark house” movie. It does have some problems, particularly in having a rather stiff and static presentation, but outside of that, this is one of the more pleasant discoveries I’ve made in this journey through fantastic cinema. Edward van Sloan has a pivotal role, and it’s directed by the man who would later do many of the monster comedies for Abbott and Costello.


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