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The Spanish Cape Mystery US (1935) next indepth moviereview...

Publicityshot Donald Cook (1930s)Producer: M.H. Hoffman
Production manager: Rudolph C.Flothow
Director: Lewis D. Collins
Cast Includes:
EQ: Donald Cook
Inspector Queen: Guy Usher
Stella Godfrey: Helen Twelvetrees
Godfrey: Frank Sheridan
Kummer: Huntley Gordon
Mrs. Godfrey: Betty Blythe
Dupre: Olaf Hytten
Gardener: Jack LaRue
Tiller: Frank Leigh
Mrs. Munn: Barbara Bedford
Hendricks: Donald Kerr
Jorum: George Cleveland
Captain Kidd: Richard Cramer
Sheriff Moley: Harry Stubbs
Judge Macklin: Berton Churchill
Mrs.Constable: Ruth Gillette
also with George Baxter, Arnold Gray, Katherine Morrow, Lee Prather

Source: novel The Spanish Cape Mystery
72 - 65 min, 54 minutes for TV, Black & White
Release Date - October25. 1935

The Billboard, Nov 19. 1935

"A good mystery production, but another programmer handicapped by lack of marquee name attractions. Best exploitation angle is authorship - the picture is based on one of the many "Ellery Queen" whodunit books, with Donald Cook playing the part of Queen in the production. Books have had wide sale and have a definite following in the amateur sleuth field. Leads are Cook and Helen Twelvetrees, who give satisfactory performances. Miss Twelvetrees looks swell.
Story is rather complicated, concerning the murders of a number of guests and fortune hunters at home of Miss
Twelvetrees' father. As to be expected, there are confusing clews and circumstances, with a hillbilly sheriff trying to straighten things out. The sheriff and Queen, who is on a vacation and doesn't want to touch the case, have one of those comedy feuds, with Queen, of course, finally making it all look very easy. Production generally satisfactory."

 The Spanish Cape Mystery - Title CardThe Spanish Cape Mystery - 1935 lobby card. Scene shows Ellery (Donald Cook), Helen Twelvetrees and the villain being restrained by the cops.
The Spanish Cape Mystery - lobbycardThe Spanish Cape Mystery - lobbycard

The Spanish Cape Mystery - lobbycard
The Spanish Cape Mystery - lobbycard with Richard Kramer, Donald Cook and Helen Twelvetrees
Above: Six out of a set of eight lobby cards

It all begins when Ellery and his friend Judge Macklin, enter a lavish beach house and find pretty Stella Godfrey tied to a chair. More infuriated than frightened, Stella tells Ellery what the audience has already seen: while returning home with her stepfather the previous evening, Stella was waylaid by a mysterious gunman, who then knocked out her stepfather and carried him off into the night.

Apparently Stella's stepdad has been murdered, one of several killings which occur during the film's brief running time. The mystery and motive are solved when Stella permits herself to act as bait for the killer, but the generous Ellery allows local sheriff Moley to take the credit. Although some liberties are taken with the classic plot (the naked victim is accorded a set of swimming trunks; the story is relocated to the West Coast) but the story emerges fairly unscathed. Unfortunately, Cook's flirtatious Ellery is unrelated to any EQ novel, and the blustery Sheriff is the worst kind of comic relief. The rights to the film belonged to its distributor, Republic, who many years ago issued it in a truncated form for local television stations. In so doing, they thought the deleted footage would never be needed again and it was discarded. The opening sequence (the only part of the film in which the Inspector appears) was thought to be irretrievably lost. The link to the movie at the bottom of this page proves otherwise.

Publicity for "The Spanish Cape Mystery" (Picture courtesy Greenbriar).
Above: Publicity for The Spanish Cape Mystery (Picture courtesy Greenbriar).

The only book with a geographical title to make it to the box-office in Hollywood. Ellery Queen, the scholarly amateur detective, was introduced to the screen in this low-budget mystery. Donald Cook plays Ellery Queen in a low-key, poker-faced fashion, which may not be terribly exciting but is actually closer to the original concept than most of the movie Queens. This first Ellery Queen movie finds master sleuth investigating murder at seaside resort and falling in love with primary suspect (Twelvetrees). Hokey denouement mars otherwise enjoyable whodunit. It offered perhaps the most effective location photography of any B-thriller during the 30s.

Add for "The Spanish Cape Mystery" in "Boxoffice", Oct 12 1935.Republic does Ellery Queen, and it's darn good. Donald Cook plays the detective as indolent observer of seaside murders, bodies piled like cordwood before he takes active interest. Cook requires getting used to, our dominant image of him the priggish brother to James Cagney in Public Enemy. Helen Twelvetrees had landed there on a slope from stardom, is top-billed. There are exteriors as the title implies, shot at Laguna according to then-trades. Cook as Ellery goes on vacation with elderly and irascible judge Berton Churchill, a head-scratcher as to what these two would have in common over a month spent at a rental cottage. Still, it's a novel set-up, and Churchill for-once sympathetic is refreshing. (John McElwee)

Above right: Add for the movie The Spanish Cape Mystery in Boxoffice, Oct 12 1935.

Variety called the film a "Fairly intriguing detective mystery," but added that it fails "to cash in on inherent possibilities, both through weak adaptation and wobbly direction..." The reviewer further explained, "Detective Queen, however, fails to measure up to expectations of the character. Director and author have seen fit to play up bombastic sheriff intent on solving the murders. Loud expounding of this local gendarme's theories not only slow up the action, but are so absurd as to become irritating. Toward close the director builds suspense that clicks. ... Rich settings as well as some excellent scenic stuff help."

Donald Cook and Helen Twelvetrees in 'The Spanish Cape Mystery'Donald Cook and Helen Twelvetrees in 'The Spanish Cape Mystery'
Donald Cook and Helen Twelvetrees in 'The Spanish Cape Mystery'
Guy Usher as Inspector Queen in the first Ellery Queen movie "The Spanish Cape Mystery" (1935)

Syracuse Journal, 1935

"In "The Spanish Cape Mystery," whom do you think is doing the Sherlock Holmes stuff? Why, nonę other than handsome Donald Cook, who used to be with Ralph Murphy's stock company at the Empire. Oh, there are several murders, quite cleverly done by one of the least suspected. Helen Twelvetrees plays the suspected girl, but, of course, Don is in love with her and of course knows that it is not logical for her to have committed a murder. He solves things by logic, while the comedy sheriff, played by Harry Stubbs, considers about everybody guilty and has to be bluffed off from making arrests. The company has a number of old friends in Berton Churchill, Frank Sheridan, Jack LaRue and Huntley Gordon."


(Source Full Movie YouTube)


Click if you think you can help out...!References
(1) The Great Detective Pictures - James Robert Parish

Other articles on this movie

(1) The Spanish Cape Mystery - Film Noirish 2015

Last updated January 29. 2024

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