The Crooked Circle is criminal enterprise that dabbles in the occult and wears black robes with cowl hoods.   Up against the cabal of criminals is a bunch of amateur detectives that call themselves The Sphinx Club.  One of the members of the Circle was caught because of a tip from the Sphinx Club.  The Circle vows revenge on the Club and decides that the leader of the Club, Colonel Theodore Wolters (Berton Churchill), must be assassinated.  The group draws cards to determine who will be tasked with killing Wolters.  The person drawing the card with the skull on it is the one who is to be the assassin.  The card is picked by the only woman in the Circle.

The main members of the Sphinx Club are Brand Osborne (Ben Lyon), Harry Carter (Roscoe Karns) and Colonel Wolters.  Brand has just become engaged to Thelma Parker (Irene Purcell) and has decided to leave the Sphinx Club.  The new recruit to take his place is an Indian named Yoganda (C. Henry Gordon). 

Wolters has just purchased an old mansion on Long Island called Melody Manor.  He plans on moving into it tonight.  Reportedly the house is haunted.  He receives a letter from the Crooked Circle threatening his life and telling him that he will be dead by midnight.  Yoganda is a soothsayer and predicts that evil is on its way.  Brand decides that the members of the Sphinx Club should hang out with Wolters until after midnight to protect him from whatever evil the Circle is up to.  

“The Crooked Circle” was released in 1932 and was directed by H. Bruce Humberstone.  It is a low budget horror-esque American pre-code thriller comedy and an old dark house thriller.  A lot of stuff like this was churned out in the thirties.

At less than an hour long, it is a short film.  It’s still long enough to toss in a couple red herrings, some extraneous characters and more than a few mystery movie tropes and old dark house secret passages and rooms.  There are also a couple small twists and turns that add a little run time to the film.  There’s nothing really special about the movie but it is not a bad way to pass the time. 

There is more comedy than mystery here.  Everyone gets into the comedic aspect of the film in one way or another.  The two who are mostly comic relief are Zasu Pitts as housekeeper Nora Rafferty and James Gleason as Police officer Arthur Crimmer.  They trade barbs back and forth throughout the film.

If Zasu Pitts sounds a lot like Olive-Oyl there is a reason for that.  Mae Questel, the woman who voiced Olive-Oyl in most of the “Popeye” cartoons, based the voice she used on Zasu Pitts.

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