In British East Africa, Helen Chalmers (Gertrude Michael), Colonel Leonard Crecy (Paul Cavanagh) and Norman Bellamy (Berton Churchill) convince their friend Freddie Bastion (Ray Milland) to leave work early and join them for dinner and a game of bridge. Freddie is responsible for managing a dam project and should have been on hand during the coming rains to monitor the situation.
When the rains come down, he leaves the party to assess the situation. While flying over the area the dam breaks and flood waters ravage the landscape. Among the dead are his sisters. Knowing that he is responsible for the devastation, Freddie commits suicide by sabotaging his plane. Freddie’s brother, who is clinically insane, hears about the tragedy and blames the three bridge companions for Freddie’s death.
Two years later he escapes from a mental institution and vows to kill them. Helen, Leonard and Norman meet in Santa Barbara, California to discuss the situation. The police want to have guards posted but Helen refuses. Outside of the three potential victims there is also a new butler, Skinner (Halliwell Hobbes), the cook and the maid in the house.
Then Helen’s sister, Gloria Chalmers (Arletta Duncan) and her boyfriend, Andrew Forsythe (Robert Allen) show up. Not long after that a 70-year-old neighbor, Sybil Thornton (Henrietta Crosman), drops by with a young man, Ronald Cavendish (John Lodge), in tow. Out in the foyer a note is discovered, pinned down by a large knife. The note, from Bastion, proves that the maniac is now in the house and is one of the people present. The games begin.
“Menace” was released in 1934 and was directed by Ralph Murphy. It is a low budget American pre-code, old dark house murder mystery.
It is a fast-paced romp that has barely enough time to introduce the characters before bumping them off. With enough red herrings to fill an ocean it jumps from suspect to suspect with barely enough time to catch your breath. Some of the characters appear to be tossed together to just add variety to the suspect pool, although there aren’t very many suspects, and it isn’t too difficult to figure out which one done it.
It ended up being an interesting little time occupier.