Detective Bill Holt (John Miljan) is on vacation in the country. His sidekick Mike ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James P. Burtis) is with him. Bill is writing a book and getting interrupted right and left. His next door neighbor Reuben Marshall (Oscar Apfel) stops by for a drink, soon followed by Muriel Randal (Iris Adrian). Muriel is a flirtatious vamp and working on her second husband, Harry Randal (James Eagles) who is in a sanitarium. Muriel invites Bill to a party at the house that night.

When Bill gets there the party is in full swing. Muriel introduces Bill to her ex-husband, husband number one, Campbell Snowden (Harry Holman), her mother-in-law Ann Randal (Betty Blythe); Ann’s other son Tom Randal (Barry Norton), who is looking to be husband number three, and frenemy Jane Maxwell (Irene Ware), who Bill finds quite attractive.

When the party is out of rum Muriel calls local gangster Gus Colleti (Noel Madison) for a bottle of rum and some blackmail money. Gus shows up with the rum and looking to get back the blackmail material. Bill intercedes when Gus tries to rough up Muriel. Not long after that Bill has to leave to finish another chapter of his book.

At home he hears a shot. Bill and Jeff hurry next door and find Harry Randal, having broken out of the sanitarium, dying of both a bullet wound and a fall from the roof. It appears that the butler Simpson (Wilson Benge) thought he was a burglar. Harry is in the middle of a dying confession when he actually dies. Inside the house Jane is unconscious. Next to her, Campbell Snowden, is dead from a blow to the head. The pipe used to kill him is found at the side of the house. Next to Campbell is a knife. Muriel is in her bed dead, her jugular vein severed and her pearls are missing. It appears to all that Harry broke out of the sanitarium, killed Campbell and stabbed Muriel. Bill’s not buying it. But who killed whom and why?

“Murder at Glen Athol” AKA “The Criminal Within” was released in 1936 and was directed by Frank R. Strayer. It is a murder mystery based on the novel by Norman Lippincott and is a “B” poverty row film produced by Chesterfield Pictures.

It’s actually a decent little mystery. The lead, John Miljan, is a little up-tight but the story is good. The cast is also peppered with some good character actors of the time. I was expecting one murder and thought I knew who the murderer was. I ended up with two murders and an accidental murder. Some secrets were thrown in to the mix and I sat back and let it all happen.

Sometimes poverty row movies surprise you. Sometimes they’re good. This one is fast paced and full of suspects. Of course, at slightly more than an hour, some things seem to go too fast. The relationship between Bill and his obviously much younger love interest Jane was even faster than Jane expected. She finds out about their engagement when Bill announces it to the family. Of course no one kisses in movies from the thirties, especially after the Production Code was enacted, but damn, at least ask the girl before you book the honeymoon cruise. But oh well, it’s the thirties and that’s how life was.

The other highlight of this film was Iris Adrian as Muriel Randel. The most adorable fem fatale you ever did see. Her lively wit and charm captivated men until she wrung them dry. She lived life in a whirlwind and everyone got swept up with her.

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