In a thick London fog Lord Montague (Roland Young) is attacked but someone attempting to strangle him. At Scotland Yard Sir James Rumsey (Claude Fleming) questions Montague on what he remembers. Rumsey then tells Montague that four other men were strangled in the fog that day. He shows Montague a list of the four men. The Lord is visibly shaken. He knows all four of them. They were all in his regiment in Gallipoli. Rumsey questions further and finds out that by the end of the Indian war there were only fourteen officers left. Rumsey wants to question the nine remaining officers. Montague suggests they do it at his home. Rumsey is fine with the suggestion. If all the men are together it will be easier to protect them from whoever the killer is.
Rumsey accompanies Montague to his estate where they interrupt a séance being held by a Mystic (Sojin Kamiyama). Montague introduces Rumsey to his sister Lady Violet Montague (Natalie Moorhead) and her fiancé Dr. Ballou (Ernest Torrence). Also in the house is the Butler (Sydney Jarvis), Montague’s personal servant Frey (George Cooper), a former Sergeant from his regiment, and a flighty maid, Polly (Polly Moran)
The remaining nine officers are brought to the Montague estate by Scotland Yard. The group is no sooner assembled and joyously reuniting when one of their members, Major Mallory (John Miljan) is killed. As Dr. Ballou is examining the body, a young woman forces her way into the room. She is Lady Efra Cavendar (Dorothy Sebastian). Her father once was an officer of the regiment but left under a cloud of suspicion. He spent many years in the Orient and amassed a fortune. He turned traitor and fought against his own regiment. He has since died.
Shortly after this revelation a Hindu named Abdul Mohammed Bey (Boris Karloff) comes in. He says he was Marquis Cavendar’s lawyer and wants to read the man’s will since it applies to the men of the regiment. The will states that the men of the regiment will share equally of half his estate of one million pounds. Cavendar hated the men of the regiment and believed that they unjustly drummed him out of England. He believes that the sudden wealth will affect the regiment and turn them against each other. Efra is to get the remaining half of the estate, another million and the regiment is to be her guardians. More incentive to turn against each other. Mohammed Bey leaves. Efra tells Rumsey that she has been a prisoner of Mohammed Bey. She also says she overheard a discussion between him and another man. They were plotting to kill most of the regiment to get a hold of the estate. Let the finger pointing begin.
“The Unholy Night” was released in 1929 and was directed by Lionel Barrymore. It was his second sound film as director. Barrymore directed several films and shorts. The movie is a pre-code murder mystery with comedic undertones. It is based on an unpublished story by Ben Hecht called “The Green Ghost”. The movie was also done as a silent version and in 1930 a French version was released. Both are considered lost films.
Boris Karloff has a supporting role but is not in the movie credits. He tries very hard to have an Indian accent. I know Karloff can do almost anything but Hindu really isn’t one of them. In spite of his less than stellar performance it’s nice to see him in the film.
The movie unfolds very much like a stage play. Characters are entering and leaving throughout the film. It was actually kind of fun. There’s some decent humor in it, especially in the beginning between Roland Young’s and Claude Fleming’s characters. The plot is a little intricate but I had such a good time watching that it didn’t matter. How everything was tied together and reasoned out was a little bit of a stretch but despite its flaws it was an enjoyable film.
As far as I know the film is not available on DVD or even VHS. I’m not sure it’s ever had a home video release.