The body of Jefferson Monk (George Macready) has just been delivered to the San Francisco morgue. Elsewhere in the city, detectives Jack Packard (Jim Bannon) and Doc Long (Barton Yarborough) have a wild story to tell.
Three days ago, the detectives met Monk at a nightclub, and he confessed to them that someone was trying to kill him. Over the following 72 hours, they tried everything they could to crack the case and save his life.
Though they were clearly unable to save poor Monk, the men share the twisted story of how Monk’s fate was sealed.
I Love a Mystery was directed by Henry Levin. This is one of three films inspired by the “I Love a Mystery” radio series, with this story in particular pulled from a broadcast called “The Decapitation of Jefferson Monk.”
It’s clear while watching this film that it was inspired by a radio program. An early scene has narration describing San Francisco as “Where east and west have met and mingled. City of romance and mystery.” Bits of the film like this seem pulled directly from the radio broadcast.
Never seeming to stray too far from the radio program, I Love a Mystery is quite talky, but is still a thoroughly entertaining little suspense flick.
The plot revolves around detectives trying to protect Monk after it’s been predicted that he’ll die in three days, but the viewer knows that he’ll die from the outset. Much of the story is told in a flashback, so we know the detectives won’t succeed!
The film still has suspense and tension, much of it coming from a strong performance by George Macready in the role of Jefferson Monk. He’s slightly over-the-top in his reactions, but understandably so, since Monk is basically counting down the hours until his own death.
And speaking of that death, there’s a great twist to it, satisfying the viewer at the film’s end even though we sort of knew what the outcome would be.
There’s a whole lot going on here besides the death prophecy. Monk learns of his fate through a secret society, which offers him thousands of dollars to buy his head and embalm it, to be put on display like a religious relic. Then we have faked illnesses, and masked amputees lurking in the shadows. In Monk’s own words, “The mysticism of it all!”
Though talky and very clearly radio-inspired, I Love a Mystery is certainly never dull. It’s a quality B movie, with nice acting, photography, and pacing. Recommended.