Plot: An affluent banker has turned up dead in an apparent suicide, but his daughter Gwen (Anne Nagel) is convinced foul play was involved. After all, her father had just uncovered underhanded practices at the bank, as someone had been forging bank documents. As this was revealed to all the bank officers and soon after, her father was dead, Gwen is certain the events are connected. She hires private detective Lance O’Leary (Dick Purcell) to get to the bottom of this mess and of course, he brings along his right hand woman, Sarah (Ann Sheridan). When the bank officers are assembled to allow the investigation to get started, someone else winds up dead and it seems like the guilty party is trying to tie up loose ends. Can O’Leary crack the case in time or will no one be alive long enough to turn in the killer?
Entertainment Value: I wouldn’t call Mystery House a riveting murder mystery, but it has some fun moments and delivers on the basics. I also appreciate the brisk pace and run time that clocks in at under an hour, as that keeps interest up and ensures the film doesn’t feel drawn out. The story is fine, with a pretty predictable, but passable murder spree. So fans of “and then there were none” style mysteries should enjoy the premise, even if the twists and turns aren’t that memorable. I would have appreciated one or two nice sharp twists to help balance out the by the numbers plot, but no such luck. But don’t take this to mean I think Mystery House is a bad movie, as that isn’t the case and it does have some bright spots. The b movie vibes are decent here, the cast is solid, and while not all that original, the narrative is capable and covers the usual bases, so genre fans should be pleased there.
This one has a decent cast, given the low budget, b movie nature of the material, with Dick Purcell and Ann Sheridan in the most prominent roles. The performances are fine, but neither of the leads sparks much beyond the basic presence, though the script doesn’t give them a lot to work with. Sheridan has good general screen command as usual, but isn’t able to impress with her thespian skills. She reads the lines and emotes a little, never going for broke or showing much interest. Her effort in Mystery House is utilitarian at best, though it isn’t bad. Purcell fares a little better, but not much. He is a competent anchor for the movie and does what he needs to do, but again, doesn’t go much beyond the basics. Not yawn inducing performances from the leads, just nothing to write home about. The standout for most people will likely be Elspeth Dudgeon, who at least dials up her performance and shows some enthusiasm, in one of the more unlikable, but enjoyable roles here. The cast also includes William Hopper, Anne Nagel, Hugh O’Connell, and Dennie Moore.