Grand Central Murder (1942)

Note: Today is TMP’s birthday! On January 18, 2012, I published the first post on this blog. It’s been a great five years. I didn’t plan a special post to commemorate the event this year, but before we get to today’s review, I wanted to offer a quick note of thanks to everyone who has supported the blog over the years. Whether you comment, email, or tweet about these films, or simply read my movie ramblings, I appreciate you! Now, on to today’s film…

(Image via Not the Baseball Pitcher)

(Image via Not the Baseball Pitcher)

A convict known as “Turk” (Horace McNally) is on a train, under the watchful eyes of two policemen. When the train arrives at Grand Central Station, Turk manages to sneak away from the cops and make a threatening phone call to Mida King (Patricia Dane), a Broadway starlet.

Mida is, naturally, unnerved by the call. And as it turns out, her worries were not unfounded: soon after, she turns up dead in a private train car.

Police decide that rather than taking any chances and letting the killer get away, they’ll round up everyone that could possibly be involved in Mida’s death and immediately interrogate them to get to the truth. They have little evidence, and no concrete idea of exactly how Mida died. Included in the pool of suspects are Mida’s ex-husband Paul (George Lynn), her stepfather (Roman Bohnen), her maid (Connie Gilchrist), and Turk.

Grand Central Murder was directed by S. Sylvan Smith. The film was written by Peter Ruric, based on a novel by Sue MacVeigh.

“Here I am with a whole office full of talkative suspects, and we don’t even know how she was murdered.”

Grand Central Murder offers an interesting little twist on the usual murder mystery. The suspects are gathered together early on, and through their questioning the truth becomes clear. Usually, the investigation would carry on with detectives stomping through city blocks, the suspects gathered at the end for a Nick Charles-style reveal. Here, flashbacks tell the tale as each suspect is questioned.

The film walks the line between straightforward whodunit and mystery/comedy. “Death and me are just around the corner waiting for you. Don’t keep us waiting, Mida,” Turk says in that early phone call. This quote sums up, to me, the film’s blend of creepiness and silliness.

(Image via IMP Awards)

(Image via IMP Awards)

Not too light or too dark, Grand Central Murder is a fast-moving picture. Its 73-minute run time is quite short, and the pace is kept up to cram a lot of perspectives and information into the film. As a result of the well-executed pacing, the film never feels slow or longer than it is, despite the fact that it’s very dialogue-heavy. Not a single minute is wasted.

The performances are good across the board, too. There is quite a large cast of characters for the viewer to get to know, and while we don’t necessarily get to know any of them deeply, all are played believably. There are no show-stopping moments of acting, but fine performances are given all around.

With much of the investigation taking place in a room full of suspects, there isn’t a whole lot of opportunity for visual appeal, the film’s one middling attribute. However, the opening scenes make good use of trains, steam, and the depot, allowing for a few moments of flashier photography.

Grand Central Murder is a fun and fast mystery. Recommended for genre fans.

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2 thoughts on “Grand Central Murder (1942)

  1. Todd B says:

    In a movie titled ‘Grand Central Murder’, I was looking forward to tracking it down and enjoying its train theme and visuals…but your last paragraph straightened me out on that. Still, it seems like a pleasant way to spend 73 minutes, and at least it has some train action at the start!

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