Best Mystery Movies of 1940
Story of a young woman who marries a fascinating widower only to find out that she must live in the shadow of his former wife, Rebecca, who died mysteriously several years earlier. The young wife must come to grips with the terrible secret of her handsome, cold husband, Max De Winter. She must also deal with the jealous, obsessed Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper, who will not accept her as the mistress of the house.
After a woman shoots a man to death, a damning letter she wrote raises suspicions.
The European war was only beginning to erupt across national borders. Johnny Jones, an American crime reporter dispatched by his New York publisher to put a fresh spin on the drowsy dispatches emanating from overseas, has a nose for a good story—which promptly leads him to the crime of fascism and Nazi Germany's designs on European conquest. In attempting to learn more about a seemingly noble peace effort, Jones walks into the middle of an assassination, uncovers a spy ring and—not entirely coincidentally—falls in love.
Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum
A wax museum run by a demented doctor contains statues of such crime figures as Jack the Ripper and Bluebeard. In addition to making wax statues the doctor performs plastic surgery. It is here that an arch fiend takes refuge. The museum also houses a statue of Charlie. Frustrated number-two son kicks statue in rear; oops, number-two son wrong in his assumption
Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise
On a cruise ship from Honolulu to San Francisco, the famous Chinese detective encounters four more murders while trying to figure out the murder of a Scotland Yard friend.
Twenty years removed from Alice Barlow's murder by a thief looking for her jewels, newlyweds Paul and Bella Mallen move into the very house where the crime was committed. Retired detective B.G. Rough, who worked on the Barlow case, is still in the area and grows suspicious of Paul, who he feels bears a striking resemblance to one of Barlow's relatives. Rough must find the truth before the killer can strike again and reclaim his bounty.
Charlie Chan in Panama
Charlie impersonates an employee of the U.S. government to foil an espionage plot which would destroy part of the Panama Canal, trapping a Navy fleet on its way to the Pacific after maneuvers in the Atlantic.
The Ghost Breakers
After intrepid working girl Mary Carter becomes the new owner of a reputedly haunted mansion located on Black Island near the Cuban coast, a stranger phones warning her to stay away from the castle. Undaunted, Mary sets sail for Cuba with a stowaway in her trunk—wise-cracking Larry Lawrence, a radio announcer who helps Mary get to the bottom of the voodoo magic, zombies and ghosts that supposedly curse the spooky estate.
Murder Over New York
When Charlie's old friend from Scotland Yard is murdered when they attend a police convention in New York, Chan picks up the case he was working on.
Stranger on the Third Floor
Newspaper reporter Michael Ward plunges into a nightmare of guilt, fearing that his "evidence" has sentenced the wrong man to death.
The Invisible Man Returns
The owner of a coal mining operation, falsely imprisoned for fratricide, takes a drug to make him invisible, despite its side effect: gradual madness.
The Fatal Hour
When a police officer is murdered, Captain Street looks to Mr. Wong to catch the killer. Prime Suspect: Frank Belden Jr., whose father is a businessman well known for both his success and dishonesty. Mr. Wong faces increasing danger and is nearly executed himself as the investigation develops in treachery and complexity. As Mr. Wong follows the trail of dead bodies, he uncovers a jewel smuggling ring on the San Francisco waterfront and a case much larger than the death of a police officer.
South of Suez
Greedy diamond mine owner Eli Snedeker, resentful that his ex-foreman John Gamble stopped him from taking over kindly, but drunken, mine owner Roger Smythe's mine just as he was about to strike it rich, kills Smythe and blames it on Gamble. Grabbing the diamonds, Gamble flees Africa to England where he changes his name and begins a new life. What he hasn't counted on, though, is meeting and falling in love with Smythe's daughter Katherine, who falls in love with him but can't marry him until she can deal with her hatred of John Gamble, the man she believes killed her father.
Doomed to Die
Shipping magnate Cyrus Wentworth, downcast over a disaster to his ocean liner 'Wentworth Castle' (carrying, oddly enough, an illicit shipment of Chinese bonds) is shot in his office at the very moment of kicking out his daughter's fiance Dick Fleming. Of course, Captain Street arrests Dick, but reporter Bobbie Logan, the attractive thorn in Street's side, is so convinced he's wrong that she enlists the help of detective James Lee Wong to find the real killer.
Michael Shayne: Private Detective
Millionaire sportsman Hiram Brighton hires gumshoe Michael Shayne to keep his spoiled daughter Phyllis away from racetrack betting windows and roulette wheels. After Phyllis slips away and continues her compulsive gambling, Shayne fakes the murder of her gambler boyfriend, who is also romancing the daughter of casino owner Benny Gordon, in order to frighten her. When the tout really ends up murdered, Shayne and Phyllis' Aunt Olivia, an avid reader of murder mysteries, both try to find the identity of the killer.
The Devil Bat
Dr. Carruthers feels bitter at being betrayed by his employers, Heath and Morton, when they became rich as a result of a product he devised. He gains revenge by electrically enlarging bats and sending them out to kill his employers' family members by instilling in the bats a hatred for a particular perfume he has discovered, which he gets his victims to apply before going outdoors. Johnny Layton, a reporter, finally figures out Carruthers is the killer and, after putting the perfume on himself, douses it on Carruthers in the hopes it will get him to give himself away. One of the two is attacked as the giant bat makes one of its screaming, swooping power dives.
The Green Archer
Columbia's 12th serial of 57 total (following 1940's "Deadwood Dick" and ahead of 1941's "White Eagle") is another of director's James Horne's "classics" where he evidently figured that the same reactions that served him well in Laurel and Hardy films would work well in action serials where he has all hands, heroes and villains alike, doing some kind of over-the top "take", no matter the situation. This loose adaptation of an Edgar Wallace story finds Michael Bellamy (Kenne Duncan in his Kenneth Duncan period) inheriting Garr Castle, but his brother, Abel Bellamy (James Craven, as usual making Oil-Can Harry look smooth), has him imprisoned unjustly and moves into the castle himself. When Michael's wife, Elaine Bellamy (Dorothy Fay), fails to return after visiting Abel, her sister Valerie Howett (Iris Meredith), accompanied by their father,
When a teenager's father is accused of murder, the boy and his high-school classmates set out to find the real killer.
The Saint Takes Over
The Saint Takes Over, released in 1940 by RKO Pictures, was the fifth motion picture featuring the adventures of Simon Templar, a.k.a. "The Saint" the Robin Hood-inspired crimefighter created by Leslie Charteris. George Sanders returned as Templar, with Wendy Barrie playing his latest romantic conquest in her second of three appearances in the Saint film series (playing a different role each time). This film focuses on the character of Inspector Henry Farnack (Jonathan Hale), who appeared in several of the Saint series. When Farnack is framed by a gang he is investigating, it is up to The Saint to clear his name.
The Case of the Frightened Lady
A classic British thriller set in a sinister old house, based on a story by Edgar Wallace.
The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady
A hardworking secretary for a rich woman finds herself engaged to the woman's son and accused of a murder she didn't commit.
In this second Carter mystery, a mysterious rash of cargo ships sinking in Panama leads insurers Llewellyns of London to hire vacationer Nick Carter and his eccentric associate Bartholomew to investigate. Nick recognizes influential nightclub owner Al Taurez as a shady operator, but getting the goods on him depends on slick diversions involving the heavyweight champ of the Pacific Tuna Fleet, a Panamanian bombshell armed with American slang, a young couple in love and a whole raft of crooks and cutthroats.
Ellery Queen, Master Detective
The mysteriously ill John Braun makes a new will, leaving out his daughter Barbara, over the protests of his wife. The trouble began when the daughter wanted to marry Mr. Braun's doctor, James Rogers. Mrs. Braun asks Inspector Queen to help find the long-missing Barbara. The inspector's son, Ellery, works on the case. He goes to a home frequently visited by Dr. Rogers where the bell is answered by Nikki Porter who Ellery mistakes for Barbara and insists she return to the Braun home. Nikki does, to protect Barbara, and a short time later finds herself alone in a room outside Braun's bedroom. She finds him dead - his throat cut. No weapons are found and the door to the room where Nikki had been is locked, and she is suspected. Ellery hides Nikki in his apartment. Braun's body, sent for an autopsy, disappears and in its place is a life-sized statue of the dead man.
The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date
Complicated plot involving missing stamp collection and kidnapped businessman, with the Lone Wolf keeping one step ahead of the police in Havana trying to solve the crime and make a profit.
Mrs Pym of Scotland Yard
An eccentric woman detective investigates the murders of several people who visited the same medium.
This final Carter film is a lot of fun, with Nick (unwillingly, at first) taking on a ring of Fifth Columnists (since this was filmed before the US entered the war, we're not told the villains are Nazis, but it's pretty clear anyway). Of course, the helpful and persistent Bartholomew is at his side--much to Nick's irritation. To further complicate things--and to make them still funnier--Joyce Compton is along for the ride too, as a delightfully brainless "detective" named Christine Cross.
Phantom of Chinatown
In the middle of a pictorial lecture on his recent expedition to the Mongolian Desert, Dr. John Benton,the famous explorer, drinks from the water bottle on his lecture table, collapses and dies. His last words "Eternal Fire" are the only clue Chinese detective Jimmy Wong and Captain Street of the police department have to work on.
The Saint's Double Trouble
Reformed jewel thief Simon Templar lands in hot water when a look-alike smuggles stolen goods out of Egypt.
On the Spot
Frankie Kelly is the soda jerk and embryo scientist in Midvales only drugstore. Two murders and an attempted killing suddenly swing Midvale into national prominence. Frankie and his pal, Jefferson, become involved when a wounded gangster starts to tell them where $300,000 in stolen loot is hidden, but he is murdered before he can give them all of the information. The search is on.
Up in the Air
A none-too-popular (nor good) radio singer, Rita Wilson is murdered while singing on the air in a radio studio. Radio page boy, Frankie Ryan, and his janitor pal, Jeff, solve the mystery for the none-too-sharp police.
When Lord Peter Wimsey marries Harriet Vane, a crime author, they both promise to give up crime for good. As a wedding present, Peter purchases the old house where Harriet grew up, but when they try to move in the previous owner is nowhere to be found, until they start to clean the house and find his body in the cellar...
Charters and Caldicott are touring the Middle East. After visiting Saudi Arabia they find themselves in Bagdad where they are mistaken by a group of German spies for the messengers who are to carry a song record by beautiful singer La Palermo which contains secret instructions of the German Intelligence. Realizing their error, the German spies follow Charters and Caldicott to Istanbul and Budapest, trying to eliminate them and retrieve the record.
Calling Philo Vance
Philo is in Vienna working for the US Government to see if Archer Coe is selling aircraft designs to foreign powers. He grabs the plans with Archer's signature, but is captured by police before he can escape. Deported he comes back to America and plans to confront Archer, but Archer is found dead in his locked bedroom with a gun in his hand. While it looks like a suicide, Vance knows better and the coroner finds that Archer has been shot, hit with a blunt instrument and stabbed - making suicide unlikely. But Vance is on the case and is looking to see if government secrets have been sold and who has murdered Coe. This is a remake of "The Kennel Murder Case" using aircraft designs and espionage instead of Chinese porcelain and dog shows.
The Door with Seven Locks
A wealthy lord dies and is entombed with a valuable deposit of jewels. Seven keys are required to unlock the tomb and get hold of the treasure. A mad doctor uses an iron maiden to systematically eliminate the heirs to the fortune.
Boys of the City
Street kids get sent to the country, where they get mixed up in murder and a haunted house.
Half a Sinner
Although young and beautiful, schoolteacher Anne Gladden fears a dull future. She finally decides to take a walk on the wild side, splurging on some fashionable new clothes and setting off to find adventure. Her new confidence inspires her to flirt with complete strangers. When a gangster pays unwanted attention to her, she ditches him and flees in his car, unaware that there's a corpse in the trunk. Determined to recover his stolen vehicle and its incriminating cargo the thug begins a desperate search. The oblivious Anne, comes to the aid of a handsome young man stranded alongside the road. Romance blooms, but after the shocking discovery of a body in the trunk, the duo decide they have to return the car. The bickering lovebirds head back to the city, trailed by both the angry gangster and the cops, who suspect the young couple of murder.
Who Killed Aunt Maggie?
When a much-despised matriarch is murdered, or apparently murdered, all of her relatives and "friends" fall under suspicion. Sheriff Gregory is the official investigator, but most of the clue gathering is done by amateur sleuths Kirk Pierce and Sally Ambler.
Teenagers try to clear a friend accused of murder.
A delivery boy for a flower shop, who thinks of himself as an amateur detective, finds out that his boss is mixed up with a foreign espionage ring.
When the plane owned by the "Yukon and Columbia Mail Service" crashes, RCMP Sergeant Renfrew (James Newill) and Constable Kelly (Dave O'Brien) suspect murder. Their suspicions are confirmed when Renfrew finds the control stick has been jammed, forcing the plane to fly in one direction until the gas ran out. Mine owner Louise Howard (Louise Stanley) reports that her superintendent is missing. The Mounties find him murdered and that too has been made to look like an accident. A new mail service pilot, Bill Shipley (Warren Hull), arrives. He had gone to training school with Renfrew but had been cashiered for misconduct. The Mounties discover that Raymond (Karl Hackett), who had been working for Louise, really owns the flying line managed by Yuke Cardoe (William Pawley.) They find proof that all the gold from the mine isn't being turned over to Louise, and suspect that Raymond and Yuke are stealing the gold and shipping it to Seattle by plane.
A murdered man helps his widow bring his killer to justice.
Edmund Lowe plays an insurance investigator who interrupts his honeymoon to look into the case of a murder, which could also be a suicide, in which case his company won't have to pay the victim's contract. His wife, played by Margaret Lindsay, insists on following him around, not only to help him solve the case, but to make sure he doesn't get too friendly with any members of the opposite sex, either.
Love, Honor and Oh-Baby!
In despair after breaking up with his girlfriend, a man hires a thug he has never seen to kill him. However, he changes his mind when he falls in love with another woman--but he can't stop the man trying to kill him because he doesn't know who he is.
Opened by Mistake
A wise-guy reporter and a tippling sportswriter acquire an unclaimed trunk with a corpse inside.
A man's ex-wife is found murdered, and he finds himself to be the prime suspect.
A man is framed for being a spy. After he is released, he sets out to find who the real spies are.
A policeman makes the startling discovery that his girlfriend is involved in a waterfront smuggling racket.
Dark Streets of Cairo
A rapid series of murders occurs when a professor disrupts a tranquil Egyptian tomb by removing some precious jewels.
Matt Morrison gets his old college chum Frank Stewart a job at the steel foundry where he works. Trouble quickly ensues.
Meet the Wildcat
Ralph Bellamy and Margaret Lindsay, stars of Columbia's "Ellery Queen" series, let their hair down and went "screwball" in the Universal comedy-mystery Meet the Wildcat. Bellamy plays a New York gumshoe on the trail of an art thief. His investigation is confounded by the presence of snoopy girl reporter Lindsay.