For the first twenty minutes or so–it runs just over an hour–A Shriek in the Night seems like it might be a decent, b mystery. Ginger Rogers is appealing as the reporter undercover as a murder victim’s secretary and Purnell Pratt is great as the police inspector on the case.
Unfortunately, it isn’t about the two of them solving the case, which would have been amusing. Instead, Lyle Talbot is playing her newspaper rival slash boyfriend and it’s about him and Rogers on the case. Only there’s not much of a case. I can’t really think of a less interesting mystery than Shriek, as it has none of the genre’s compelling components. There isn’t a large cast of suspects, the motive for the murder is lame and the killer’s method is lame too.
Maybe the film could have still succeeded, even with those three strikes (I’m actually not sure–a mystery without any suspects seems a little handicapped) but it’s also got Talbot to contend with. I’m not sure what’s worse–Talbot’s performance in general or his lack of chemistry with Rogers in particular. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more mismatched couple–and this film was their second as a pair, so someone must have thought they got along well onscreen; that someone was wrong.
The rest of the cast is weak too. Arthur Hoyt and Harvey Clark, in particular, are awful.
The film seems to be unable to decide if it’s a farce or a serious mystery.
But, who cares?
Directed by Albert Ray; screenplay by Frances Hyland, based on a story by Kurt Kempler; directors of photography, Tom Galligan and Harry Neumann; edited by Leete Renick Brown; released by Allied Pictures Corporation.
Starring Ginger Rogers (Pat Morgan), Lyle Talbot (Ted Kord), Harvey Clark (Peterson, the janitor), Purnell Pratt (Police Insp. Russell), Lillian Harmer (Augusta, the housekeeper), Arthur Hoyt (Wilfred), Louise Beavers (Maid) and Clarence Wilson (Editor Perkins).