31 Days of Halloween – Day 21: Murder by the Clock (1931)

Murder By The Clock 1931Following up on yesterday’s theme of creepy, old dark houses, today we’re throwing in the fear of being buried alive. Wrap it all up in a nice creaky old movie from 1931 with limited dialogue and music, then you have a seldom talked about rarity called Murder by the Clock. The movie is based not only on a play called Dangerously Yours by playwright Charles Beahan but a novel by author Rufus King. It was King’s third novel and was followed by many detective stories, some of which were published in the legendary Strand Magazine. The detective seen here, Lt. Valcour, was featured in several of those novels.

Blanche Friderici (Thirteen Women) stars as Julia Endicott, a rich, elderly woman with a fear of dying. She has a horn installed into her family crypt with strict orders that when she dies, the casket be left open. In the event she is buried alive, she can activate the horn and be rescued. Apparently, another relative died this way and the fear has grown as she nears death. She decides to leave her family fortune with an obnoxious drunk nephew, despite hating his money-grubbing wife Laura (Lilyan Tashman). Her son is mentally challenged with homicidal tendencies, so she cannot leave the money to him. When she is mysteriously murdered, her son takes the fall and the nephew inherits the money. However, Laura is not to be trusted and Lt. Valcour (William “Stage” Boyd) is not convinced the police have the real killer in custody.

Murder by the Clock is a perfect mixture of detective drama and horror, thanks to the creepy house and graveyard settings. Some people may find these early talkies very staged but I love them. Despite its unavailability on DVD, the full movie is on YouTube, so enjoy!

Tomorrow, we head south of the border for the first of several Mexican horror classics!


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