Movie Review: Murder in the Private Car (1934)

Synopsis: Switchboard operator Ruth Russell learns she is actually Ruth Carson, the kidnapped daughter of railroad tycoon Luke Carson and agrees to take a train to New York to meet her father, not knowing the telegrammed invite is a ruse and soon realizes her life is in danger when she hears a threatening voice and one of her traveling companions is murdered. Her only hope is the quirky Godfrey D. Scott, who predicted something was amiss and is determined to prevent the crime from happening.

Who's in it? The movie stars Mary Carlisle, Charles Ruggles, Una Merkel, Fred "Snowflake" Toones, Russell Hardie, Berton Churchill and Porter Hall.

Review: I came across this film a couple days ago and decided to watch it while my wife took a shower and got ready for bed. It ended up being an OK film but also kind of a disappointment.

The main plot was intriguing. Ruth (Carlisle) secretly being the daughter to one of the richest men in the country in itself seemed a bit too good to be true (something even some of the characters hinted at). The attempted kidnapping and threats against her only added to that mystery. Was she really an heiress? If so, who is trying to kill her? If not, who is trying to kill her and why?

I also thought Godfrey Scott (Ruggles) was an entertaining character. He was eccentric but deceivingly clever and brought a bit of comic relief to the film, especially with his romantic obsession over Ruth's friend, Georgia (Merkel) and the way he slowly won her over. On one hand, he seemed like the guy who would save the day. On the other, the fact nobody wanted him around was believable.

My biggest problem with this film is it tends to be a bit unfocused at times and ultimately ruins what was a solid plot. The scenes with the gorilla, for example, weren't really needed and had zero impact on the main storyline. Plus, the end, while somewhat suspenseful, was way too drawn out, as though the filmmakers were trying to pad the runtime.

The killer's reveal was also a huge disappointment for me, mostly because it basically amounted to not much more than someone saying "that guy did it" even though it felt as though there was a lot more to the story. It doesn't even bother telling the viewer how Scott figured it out. On top of it, the killer didn't make a whole lot of sense since it was someone Ruth should have known yet didn't recognize. Those were the kind of details that could have been included instead of a gorilla.

Final Opinion: It's a good premise but the movie tries to be too much of a comedy at times at the expense of the murder mystery. I didn't hate it but also didn't think it was as good as it could have been.

My Grade: C


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