A Tragedy at Midnight (1942)

(Image via recollective.tumblr)

John Howard stars as Greg Sherman, a man who performs a radio broadcast program focused on true crimes. He’s an amateur investigator, spending his time sleuthing about on cases that the cops can’t quite crack. His wife, Beth (Margaret Lindsay) is a mystery writer.

Their careers are full of crime and intrigue, but their personal lives also become full of those elements when Greg wakes up next to a dead woman after a night on the town. Greg, using his very clever mind, manages to escape arrest and sets off to find the real killer with the help of his wife.

Poor Beth gets attacked by a chair upon returning to her apartment with her on-the-run husband (Image via recollective.tumblr)

A Tragedy at Midnight is a short and sweet comedic mystery. Originally running at 68 minutes, I was only able to get ahold of the 53 minute version. This version was shortened for a run on television and is available for instant viewing on Netflix. Fifteen minutes is quite a big chunk lost from the film, but in this case it doesn’t have much of an effect. The movie is still effective and easy to follow.

While billed on Netflix as a mystery and crime drama, A Tragedy at Midnight is a very silly and comedic piece of work. A good amount of intrigue and suspense are still built, but it reads very much as a spoof of the mystery genre rather than an actual mystery film.

In fact, some of the dialogue directly discusses the conventions of the genre, cracking jokes about how the man you least expect is always the culprit, for instance. This may seem tedious to some viewers, but as an avid fan of the mystery genre, I found the jokes on conventions to be not only true but quite funny because of their truth.

Greg and Beth are not as great a team as Nick and Nora Charles, but they share the same type of witty banter that makes the film very fun to watch. (Image via recollective.tumblr)

At the same time, the film fits into the same conventions that it is making fun of. Laughs aside, there is a very interesting mystery underneath it all. The viewer is left guessing who really killed the woman and whether or not Greg and Beth will find the culprit. The mysterious side of the film is further elevated by the use of such traditional tricks as shadowy figures, men in fedoras and dirty cops.

A Tragedy at Midnight succeeds in both its satirical nature and its mysterious plot line.

This film is quite reminiscent of The Thin Man series, though not nearly as much of a masterpiece. The banter between Greg and Beth is very witty, just like that of Nick and Nora. They’re a very funny and endearing couple, working together through a series of mishaps to solve the crime.

If you’re looking for something truly great, I still recommend turning to The Thin Man series. But this film is extremely enjoyable nonetheless, and sure to leave you with many laughs. The score: 3/5

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