The Hat Box Mystery (June 12, 1947)

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The Hat Box Mystery
 

Released on June 12, 1947: The secretary/girlfriend of a struggling private eye is framed for murder and the private eye must find the real killer to save his girl.

Directed by Lambert Hillyer

The Actors: Tom Neal (Russ Adhton), Pamela Blake (Susan Hart), Allen Jenkins ('Harvard'), Virginia Sale (Veronica Hoopler), Leonard Penn (Stevens, aka John Moreland), Olga Andre (Marie Moreland), Tom Kennedy (policeman outside the Embassy Apartments), Al Hill (Flint, the crime boss), Edward Keane (District Attorney), Zon Murray (henchman Joe), Bob Nunes (unknown), Jack Cheatham (policeman), Steve Clark (telephone re-connect man), William Ruhl (unknown)

 

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Hat Box Killer

There is nothing better than sitting back with a big bowl of white kernel popcorn covered with warm melted butter and munch happily as I try to unravel a good murder mystery. As the clues are cleverly revealed on screen I try to be one step ahead of the hero, but I am kept on the edge of my seat with tension because the unknown dangers are constantly looming at the hero and innocent bystanders. The tension builds as the story teller leads me to the very edge of disaster before the hero finally puts it all together and saves the day. Whew, my heart goes pit-a-pit-a-pit faster than lightning just thinking about the roller coaster ride that a good mystery writer, director and actors can bring to the big screen. Well, . . . . this is not one of those stories, but fret not, you will enjoy this one maybe even more. It is lighthearted and strewn with enough humor to keep a twinge of a smile on your lips along with a murder mystery that is good enough to keep you watching, even though you know from the git-go that the private eye and his beautiful lady assistant will stumble their way to a happy conclusion. The Hat Box Mystery spoofs the tense film noir movies of a decade earlier, and zooms into the future with an opening that breaks the 'third wall' by having the private eye and the other three main characters speak directly to us, the audience. It is called the 'third wall' because early motion pictures are all two dimensional on the screen in front of the audience. The distance from the movie screen to the audience is called the third dimension, or the third wall, and when an actor on screen looks directly at the audience and speaks to them as if the actor were standing in front of you, that is referred to as 'breaking the third wall' and was rare when this movie was filmed. In this case it is a perfect harbinger of the attitude and style of the director, who intends to entertain more than frighten, and provide you with an hour of happy interaction with a wonderful cast of characters. So sit back with your popcorn and beverage and enjoy the show.

Allen Jenkins, Pamela Blake and Tom Neal introduce themselves to the audience
Allen Jenkins, Pamela Blake and Tom Neal introduce themselves to the audience
Allen Jenkins is 'Harvard' the private eye's helper
Allen Jenkins is 'Harvard' the private eye's helper
Edward Keane is the District Attorney
Edward Keane is the District Attorney
Leonard Penn and Al Hill discuss whether to kock off the private eye's girlfriend
Leonard Penn and Al Hill discuss whether to kock off the private eye's girlfriend
Leonard Penn as henchman Stevens
Leonard Penn as henchman Stevens
Leonard Penn fires the bullet that kills the mysterious woman
Leonard Penn fires the bullet that kills the mysterious woman
Leonard Penn in disguise as he sets up the frame with the trick hat box
Leonard Penn in disguise as he sets up the frame with the trick hat box
Pamela Blake and Tom Neal in The Hat Box Mystery
Pamela Blake and Tom Neal in The Hat Box Mystery
Tom Neal talks to the audience as Pamela Blake looks on
Tom Neal talks to the audience as Pamela Blake looks on
Pamela Blake is about to be captured by the gangsters
Pamela Blake is about to be captured by the gangsters
Pamela Blake with the hat box waits for the mysterious lady to exit the building
Pamela Blake with the hat box waits for the mysterious lady to exit the building
Steve Clark in the Hat Box Mystery
Steve Clark in the Hat Box Mystery
Tom Kennedy and Pamela Blake wait for the mysterious lady to come out of her apartment building
Tom Kennedy and Pamela Blake wait for the mysterious lady to come out of her apartment building
Tom Kennedy is a policeman in The Hat Box Mystery
Tom Kennedy is a policeman in The Hat Box Mystery
Tom Neal and Edward Keane in The Hat Box Mystery
Tom Neal and Edward Keane in The Hat Box Mystery
Tom Neal as private eye Russ Ashton
Tom Neal as private eye Russ Ashton
Tom Neal is tied up by the gangsters
Tom Neal is tied up by the gangsters
Virginia Sale is hamburger stand owner and operator Veronica Hoopler
Virginia Sale is hamburger stand owner and operator Veronica Hoopler
Zon Murray as henchman Joe in The Hat Box Mystery
Zon Murray as henchman Joe in The Hat Box Mystery