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At the Paramount it is currently a relief to turn from the spy to the mystery story. The mystery, "Murder Goes to College," finally provides some measure of recognition to Lynne Overman. Given just a flavoring of original material to work with, he moulds it to advantage in creating almost single-handed an entirely insignificant but highly enjoyable hilarity atmosphere.
As a private investigator on a holiday with a drunken sidekick, Roscoe Karns, Overman finds himself following a woman in the holiday spirit, until they stumble across the scene of a crime. For the easy to look at lady is an ex-chanteuse and now wife of Keats College's brilliant mathematician, Professor Barry. Barry has become a corpse, whereat it is brought to light that many of the Faculty members owe gambling debts to him, while he himself was trying to muscle in on the metropolitan numbers racket. The chief oft the numbers racket is a boy fiend of the professor's wife. Those are the elements; write the story your own way but the plot doesn't really matter. All that does count is that Overman is sufficiently much of an actor to make one of those clever mysteries movies realistic for a change. Perhaps that is because the directors didn't dress him up ever so smartly or make him say such very smart things.
For the spy story, "Crack up," on the credit side are found the perennial, satisfactorily sinister Teuton, Peter Lorre, and a new scene for a climax, an airplane floating on the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, uninterrupted dialogue of a third or four the hand nature makes the total insultingly familiar. We found ourselves speaking the actors' lines in advance.
In the dual personality of half-witted airport mascot and head of an international spy ring, Lorre busies himself with making Charlie Chan mutterances, intriguing to steal the United States' latest designs. As crack pilot of the commercial line, Brian Donlevy intrigues, to steal the same plans; Ralph Morgan, head of the firm, is having his wife and the plans stolen for him. Climax occurs after villainy discloses itself when they are all on board the airplane, with the plans, making a flight to Berlin.
Even the presence of Lorre can't offset the dialogue and pilot sufficiently to keep the vehicle afloat. It might also be said that there is a love element in "Crack Up," even as it might be added that Buster Crabbe appears with pants on in "Murder goes to College."
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