Tuesday 19 December 2023

Movie Review: Mystery Street (1950)

Genre: Crime Investigation Drama
Director: John Sturges
Starring: Ricardo Montalban, Sally Forrest, Jan Sterling, Bruce Bennett, Marshall Thompson, Elsa Lanchester
Running Time: 93 minutes

Synopsis: In Boston, penniless bar hostess Vivian (Jan Sterling) tries to re-connect with a wealthy married man who is now ignoring her. In desperation she takes advantage of drunk family man Henry (Marshall Thompson) and drives out to Cape Cod to force a meeting. A murder is committed, and the skeletal remains are only discovered six months later. Police Lieutenant Peter Morales (Ricardo Montalban) works with Dr. McAdoo (Bruce Bennett) of the Harvard Medical School to piece together the evidence, identify the victim, and find the culprit.

What Works Well: This engaging investigative mystery focuses on the meticulous work of police detectives and forensic specialists, director John Sturges saluting the science and legwork required to crack difficult cases. The facts behind the pleasingly complex murder are obscured by the passage of time and deceptive cross-cutting personal agendas: Vivian's nosey landlady (Elsa Lanchester) hatches a plot of her own; roommate Jackie (Betsy Blair) is a keen observer; bystander-with-a-secret Henry harbours evasiveness; his wife Grace (Sally Forrest) is suffering from loss; and wealthy boat trader Harkley (Edmon Ryan) has the most to hide. On-location filming in Boston adds authenticity.

What Does Not Work As Well: Some of the investigative deductions require significant leaps, and while the ending is well-executed, it also depends on many fortuitous breaks. 

Conclusion: Dogged detective determined to deal with difficult death.

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