At the glamorous Hamilton Court apartments and shopping center, life should be beautiful, but it isn’t so for Mary (June Clyde). When shots are fired in an apartment one night, Mary flees the scene and hitches a ride with architect Jimmy (Chick Chandler) — weapon in hand and holding him at gunpoint.
In the evening’s hurried turn of events, Jimmy crashes his car, and Mary escapes. Jimmy decides to return to the scene of the crime and call the police. By the time the cops arrive, however, strange things are happening: the original corpse has been swapped for another.
Where is Mary’s apparent first victim — and better yet, where is Mary? Could she really be guilty of killing one or more people? Jimmy takes it upon himself to investigate.
Seven Doors to Death, sometimes screened as Vanishing Corpses, was directed and written by Elmer Clifton from a story by Helen Kiely.
This film opens with high energy: Darkened rooms! Fired shots! Blood-curdling screams! When Mary hops into Jimmy’s car and swiftly shoves the barrel of her gun into his neck, things get even more tense. Clearly, this is no quiet, average neighborhood or quiet, average night.
Soon, we learn that murder isn’t the only crime afoot at Hamilton Court; there are also stolen jewels! But somehow, those seem to take precedence over the “vanishing corpses.”
Seven Doors to Death takes a turn toward the usual police procedural, failing to maintain its energy or mood from that stellar opening.
I’m the perfect target audience for a low-budget amateur detective film, but I was slightly disappointed that this one took that angle. Its setting is somewhat unusual — essentially a live-in shopping mall, complete with antique dealers and fashion shows — and the film could have done a lot more than round up the usual suspects.
It’s a little bit Clue — so-and-so in the antique shop with the Egyptian chest! — and a little bit Scooby-Doo, with its everybody-gather-’round unmasking of the true culprit. The classic reveal is fun (and contains surprisingly graphic detail regarding the criminal’s murderous methods), but I do wish Seven Doors to Death had remained as dark as it was in the beginning. It is best it its shadiest, most shadowy moments.
Recommended for fellow devotees of Poverty Row mysteries — while certainly nothing stellar, it’s an enjoyable way to pass the time.