Vivian, a B-girl working at "The Grass Skirt," is being brushed off by her rich, married boyfriend. To confront him, she hijacks drunken customer Henry Shanway and his car from Boston to Cape Cod, where she strands Henry...and is never seen again. Months later, a skeleton is found (sans clothes or clues) on a lonely Cape Cod beach. Using the macabre expertise of Harvard forensic specialist Dr. McAdoo, Lt. Pete Morales must work back from bones to the victim's identity, history, and killer. Will he succeed in time to save an innocent suspect?Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Though the script is B-grade, the terrific cast and cinematography make "Mystery Street" a fun movie to watch. The story lacks depth and substantive twists, and the fractured plot suggests a weak structure. Focus oscillates back and forth among a number of characters. As a result, viewers come away with a sense that the film is an ensemble piece when in fact it isn't.
Jan Sterling is well cast as Vivian, a young, blonde hussy who is in trouble with the wrong people. The great Elsa Lanchester provides grotesque comic relief as the dithering but nervy Mrs. Smerrling, Vivian's smarmy, slithery landlady who's very fond of money. And Ricardo Montalban is surprisingly good as Morales, a novice Boston detective trying to solve a murder. Part of the plot provides a good account of then-current forensic science, as Morales pieces together detailed biological clues.
Gorgeous B&W photography makes this film quite atmospheric. Off-kilter angles in some scenes, shadows, silhouettes, a forced perspective, along with Gothic set decoration render interesting visuals. I especially liked those scenes that contain mostly blackness punctuated with bits of light. The look and feel is very 1940s, with scenes at a seedy rooming house, a tawdry bar called the Grass Skirt, and sleazy music to match.
The main reason I chose to watch this film is because of the mystery genre and the casting of wonderful Elsa Lanchester. The "mystery" was a tad disappointing, but Elsa was sheer delight.
"Mystery Street" contains a story that is acceptable if not first rate. But the cast and B&W noir visuals are terrific, making this an above-average film, one I would recommend.
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