Plot: A murder has taken place in an old, dark house, but elderly resident Juliet (Elizabeth Patterson) still needs extensive care, so Nurse Adams (Joan Blondell) arrives the next night. Inspector Patten (George Brent) is assigned to the case and he is a skilled detective, but the house is filled with potential suspects and of course, few are keen to assist the investigation. But Nurse Adams is a constant presence in the house now, so she is able to keep her eyes and ears open, then turn over the information she gathers to Patten to decipher. As the pair work together to solve the case, the tension in the house escalates and danger lurks around every corner. Can Adams uncover the truth and crack the case, or will she wind up as the next victim?
Entertainment Value: I’ve seen a lot of critics bash Miss Pinkerton as disposable and littered with red herrings, but I think it is a light, fun pre-code thriller that has some fun horror movie vibes. I don’t mind the movie’s brisk presence at all, as not all films need to be deep, memorable experiences and a fun, sometimes ridiculous murder mystery is just what I need sometimes. I can see why the parade of false suspects might throw some viewers off, but I think it reaches absurd levels and that is a lot of fun, especially since the movie isn’t exactly deadly serious at all times. The tension is fine and the atmosphere is effective, as the film sometimes veers into the old school horror realm, with a creaky, shadow filled house to explore. The horror elements are sparse, but fun to watch and Joan Blondell embraces those moments, unleashing some epic and ear piercing screams as punctuation. This might be a slight, sometimes silly thriller, but I found Miss Pinkerton to be a brisk, fun watch.
The main reason I enjoyed this one so much was the presence of Joan Blondell, who turns in an enthusiastic and charismatic performance. Nurse Adams is so bored with her work that she jokingly contemplates suicide, so once some excitement arises, she dives in headfirst. Blondell delivers a broad effort here, so those looking for nuanced, subtle performances might be let down, but given the over the top narrative and horror threads, her melodramatic turn makes sense. Blondell makes a capable scream queen and runs with the scarier sequences, with visceral screams, wide eyes, and a penchant to faint. I think she is just immense fun in this role and elevates the entire movie, so she is a terrific lead here. George Brent is also around and has good chemistry with Blondell, so their banter feels natural and the tease of romance never comes off as forced. Brent’s performance is solid, but Blondell is so energetic, she tends to outshine whoever else is on screen. The cast also includes John Wray, Elizabeth Patterson, Ruth Hall, and C. Henry Gordon.