Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Murder by Television (1935)

A rather run-of-the-mill murder mystery though enlivened by the novel appearance of early television as a setting. Professor Houghland (Charles Hill Mailes) has invented a new method of television broadcast which can be broadcast pictures instantly from anywhere in the world (exactly how this miracle is accomplished isn't really explained). Everyone is after his technology but Houghland is an idealist who won't sell to anyone.

Houghland is murdered in the middle of a demonstration of his television broadcast. The police led by Henry Mowbray have to find out who dunnit. That is easier said than done as it is a baffling film (for much of the film the cast look bemused, and for good reason). Bela Lugosi plays identical twins, one an assistant of Houghland (and really an agent) and the other in the pay of a corporation or foreign power after the technology.

It is a bit dull with some ill-considered attempts at light relief to pad the film out, though Lugosi plays a good role as usual. It is all a bit of a shame as the film could have been a whole lot better considering the rather exotic nature of the main plot device. Interestingly the film seems to recycle a bit of footage from The Phantom Broadcast with the same newspaper seller.