The Black Raven (May 31, 1943)
Released on May 31, 1943: A group of strangers is caught in a hotel with a killer in the Black Raven hotel, on a dark and stormy night.
Directed by Sam Newfield
Written by Fred Myton.
The Actors: George Zucco (Amos Bradford, The Black Raven), Wanda McKay (Lee Winfield), Noel Madison (Mike Baroni), Robert Livingston (Allen Bentley), Byron Foulger (Horace Weatherby), I. Stanford Jolley (Whitey Cole), Jimmy Aubrey (roadblock watchman).
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What a delicious murder mystery this motion picture is! And I am not talking about your bowl of hot buttered white kernel popcorn either. In most murder mysteries, you have a bunch of suspects around a dead body, and a policeman or detective that searches out the killer. In this one, we have plenty of bad guys stuck on a small hotel on a dark and stormy night. We don't need to devide the good guys from the bad guys, they are all pretty much bad - we just need to figure out which bad guy is the killer.
Our movie opens with a shot of the famous actor George Zucco, who is playing the part of hotel proprietor Amos Bradford, who is known as the Raven, and his hotel is The Black Raven. A shadowy character peers in the window, and when Bradford's assistant leaves the room the character enters and holds Bradford at gunpoint. It seems that the fellow had just escaped from prison and had a score to settle with Bradford. They were partners in crime and while Bradford escaped being caught, he partner was caught and sent to prison. Now he is escaped and he wants to kill Bradford. When the assistant enters the room and distracts the stranger, Bradford and the assistant overcome him and tie him up, and plan to make sure that he will not bother them again. Next a man enters the hotel and asks if Bradford will help him get across the border to Canada. You see, this hotel is just a mile or so from the Canadian border. The fellow that wants Bradford's help is a racketeer from the city who was being squeezed out by a big shot named Winfield. Bradford puts him up for the night and promises to help him get across the border in the morning. Next a young couple on their way to Canada to get married comes in, because the bridge is out in the storm, and they can get no further this night. And what do you know . . . the girl is the daughter of Winfield, the man who has pushed our gangster out of town. And sure enough, papa Winfield shows up also. Now we have two gangsters that want each other dead, the daughter and future son-in-law of one of the gangsters, and did I mention the mousy man with thick glasses? Yup, Byron Foulger, veteran character actor plays the part of a bank teller who steals fifty thousand dollars from his bank and is also trying to cross the border into Canada.
One of the funniest lines in this murder thriller happens when the mousy bank teller is in his room clutching his briefcase full of money and someone is trying to break into his room from a door on the other side of the room. The bank teller runs out into the hallway screaming, and when the Black Raven approaches and asks what is wrong, the teller tells him that someone is trying to break into his room. Bradford asks him if it was a man or a woman, and the mousy teller says that it must have been a man. Bradford asks him how he knows it was a man, and the mousy teller replies that why should a woman ever try to break into his room? And Bradford takes another look at him and quickly agrees. A bit later Bradford and his assistant discover that the escaped criminal who was tied up in the back room has escaped, so now all of our characters are running free in this ominous hotel. Soon the gangster/politician/father winds up dead, and everyone en the house has a motive to have done the deed. You will enjoy this mysterious thriller as we move from one suspect to the next, until the final surprise ending.