Jim Packard (Jim Bannon) and Doc Long (Barton Yarborough) are private detectives working in San Francisco. They are at their usual hangout the “Silver Samovar” when they meet Jefferson Monk (George Macready). With him is a woman who says she is Jean (Carole Mathews). When a freak accident happens and Monk is almost injured he tells Jim that accidents have been happening and that in three days he will die. All of this was based on a prophecy. He also says he is being followed by a man who carries a small black valise just big enough for his head. Monk convinces Jim and Doc to follow him and see for themselves that he is telling the truth. Jean says she is a friend and that Monk is just confused. Jim is not so sure that Jean really is a friend so he and Doc follow Monk. The man with the bag does show up unfortunately he gets away.
Jim and Doc escort Monk home and meet his invalid wife Ellen (Nina Foch). Monk then tells the detectives about the prophecy and how it came about. He and his wife had been traveling the world. In the Far East, Monk kept hearing a strange piece of music from a street musician in several ports. Back in San Francisco he heard the same music from a blind street musician. Monk stops the man and asks him about the music. The musician gives him a note in his wife’s handwriting. The message indicates that she is in danger. The blind musician takes him to see his master.
The master calls himself Mr. G, the high priest of the sacred society Barokan, a secret society hundreds of years old. G shows Monk the sacred body of the founder of the Barokan. The body has been dead a thousand years and preserved. The face of the founder looks like Monk but the head of the founder is beginning to decay. He offers Monk ten thousand dollars for his head. He then tells Monk the prophecy that he will be dead in one year and will no longer need his head. Almost a year later G sends Monk a letter telling him that his wife will become crippled. Three days later Ellen couldn’t move her legs.
Jim takes all this in but he believes there is more con job going on than Eastern mysticism. He thinks that someone is trying to drive Monk crazy and is pushing him to suicide. The payoff is a trust worth two million dollars.
“I Love A Mystery” was released in 1945 and was directed by Henry Levin. It is crime mystery. It is the first in a series of three films and was based on the episode “The Head of Jonathan Monk” of the radio program “I Love A Mystery”. Columbia did three films based on the radio series. The other two films were “The Devil’s Mask” 1946 and “The Unknown” 1946. The radio series ran from 1939 to 1944 and was created by Carleton E. Morse.
There are some plot holes, leaps of logic and the detective seems to have unusual knowledge of things that come in real handy in solving this particular case. He knows Russian, how to play the piano and can identify a musical piece just by hearing a few notes. He’s like Sherlock Holmes without the cavalier attitude.
The plot of the film is ridiculous but following this road to the end is actually kinda fun. It throws you far out into the land of the ludicrous and reels you back in just as easily. Not exactly with finesse but it wraps everything up, at least for the most part. It certainly wasn’t the usual ho hum story.