Movie Review: Murder by Television (1935)

Synopsis: Inventor James Houghland invents a new method to deliver television signals instantly and becomes the target of major television corporations when he refuses to sell it. When he is murdered during his demonstration, it is up to the chief of police to figure out who was responsible.

Who's in it? The movie stars Bela Lugosi, June Collyer, Huntley Gordon, Charles Hill Mailes and George Meeker.

Review: I had this movie saved to my library for a couple weeks, mostly because I am a Bela Lugosi fan and because it sounded like an interesting locked room mystery. I finally got around to watching it this morning and the film wound up being a pretty big disappointment.

I guess the best way to describe this movie is it is less than an hour in length but, when watching it, I felt like it was at least twice that. This is because there is almost no action in the movie. Instead, it consists of a bunch of people standing around talking to each other. It's the type of thing that might have worked in a book but doesn't really play off well on the screen.

Another thing I found I didn't like about this movie is, while there were multiple suspects, the film really doesn't do a great job giving them any depth or, at minimum, a personality. Even Lugosi was relatively uninteresting, with his accent being really the only thing that set him apart from any of the other cast members. And, believe me, I kept hoping he would turn out to be a vampire or something, just to make the movie even remotely interesting.

I also found I wasn't crazy about the ending, which ended up being kind of predictable, especially when it came to how Houghland (Mailes) died. I think the worst part about the ending is the big revelation regarding Houghland's television equipment probably would have made a better movie in the right context and it's too bad the writers didn't see it that way.

Final Opinion: Again, had this been a book, it might have been a reasonably decent murder mystery. As a film, however, the slow pace makes it almost torture to watch.

My Grade: F


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