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The Gaunt Stranger
The Phantom Strikes

UK 1938
produced by
Michael Balcon for Ealing, CAPAD, Norwood
directed by Walter Forde
starring Patrick Barr, Alexander Knox, Sonnie Hale, Wilfrid Lawson, Patricia Roc, John Longden, Peter Croft, Louise Henry, Charles Eaton, Arthur Hambling, George Merritt
screenplay by Sidney Gilliat, based on the play The Ringer by Edgar Wallace, music by Ernest Irving

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Maurice Meister (Wilfrid Lawson), a lawyer who has his hands in all kinds of illegal operations, receives a message from the Ringer, a serialkiller who has dedicated his life to only kill criminals who can't be brought to justice for whatevr reason. With Meister, the Ringer has some personal beef, though, because Meister drove his sister to suicide.

The police are on the job to guard Meister's life soon enough, but there are two major problems with the whole affat: 1) the Ringer is supposed to be dead, and 2) nobody knows what the Ringer looks like. The policemen investigating the case, Wembury (Patrick Barr) and Doctor Lomond (Alexander Knox), soon find a way to circumvent these problems, by getting the only man who has ever seen the Ringer, petty criminal Hackett (Sonni Hale), out of prison to help them identify the man, and they get hold of the Ringer's wife Cora Ann (Louise Henry) to find out whether or not the Ringer actually is dead.

All of this of course helps very little, nor does Inspector Bliss (John Longden), a cop from Australia who is said to have shot the Ringer but who behaves very suspiciously, or the fact that while Meister's house is heavily guarded, he has neglected to tell the police about a secret passageway he uses for his smuggling operations, through which whoever wants can enter or leave the house undetected.

At the time Meister is supposed to be murdered, Wembury and Lomond pay him a personal victim with a few cops to make sure nobody else gets hold of him - but then the light goes out, and when it comes on again, Meister is dead. And the killer is ... Doc Lomond to everyone's surprise, who has planned his operation to the t ... but then Bliss is able to identify him because he has received a telegram that the real Lomond has been found dead. To escape arrest, Lomond takes a pill to kill himself ... but  later somehow gets away with his wife in a stolen ambulance ...

 

Fun little murder mystery that is pretty good at keeping one guessing without throwing too many red herrings into the mix, and without pulling a killer out of the hat in the finale - actually, the solution of the movie makes sense for a change, which isn't the case too often with Edgar Wallace-mysteries.

That all sait, The Gaunt Stranger is not a great movie, not even a genre classic, just good entertainment.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD