Quiet Please, Murder

This astonishing little film had entirely escaped my notice until that Sunday. It's a 1942 Twentieth Century Fox B (or second feature) film, starring the divinely decadent George Sanders and husky-voiced Gail Patrick (who went on to produce the Perry Mason series on TV). This pair are involved in the world of old and precious books, and the mystery involves the theft and counterfeiting of a priceless edition of Shakespeare. The setting is a modern (in 1942) public library, and there is some fascinating library detail involved. But the most interesting things about this film are in the detail of the production and the perversities in the script. For example:

- a detailed model of one of the sets from How Green Was My Valley appears (for no reason) in one scene in the library

- there is also a huge amount of Twentieth Century Fox's spare furniture and bric-a-brac scattered throughout the library. This is a very opulent library indeed

- weird and wonderful characters abound: two identically-dressed blondes in white coats and hats walk through a door at the same time for no reason; an old Italian woman appears in the library loudly looking for book on how to cook a wolf (why? I have no idea!); the library seems to have the same opening hours as nightclubs , and its patrons dress (and behave) as if they were in a nightclub - girls & guys leer at fellow patrons of the library with undisguised lust. This library is a scene!

- the relationship between Sanders and Patrick is clearly a sado-masochistic one. Sample dialogue: SANDERS TO PATRICK: "How many butterflies did you torture since lunch?"
SANDERS TO PATRICK: "The unconscious instinct to punish ourselves sometimes becomes self-destructive. The way we live is a constant threat to our own security. We love it. Giving and taking pain."


- there is a lot more really strange pseudo psychoanalytic dialogue, most of which is highly- charged sexually. I can only assume that it escaped the censors because it was only a B picture. Or perhaps the censors felt the strong anti-Nazi plot compensated for some of the wierd ideas expressed in the film. Or maybe they were pleased that Richard Denning, the dashing hero with really long hair (I noticed when it got mussed) and an eye for the ladies, treats with respect a girl whose man is in the army, serving his country

This is the kind of film you can only see at a film study day like this. It is all but forgotten, even by most film commentators. It was directed by John Larkin, who is not even listed in Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion (11th edition). But it is fascinating, stylish and clever, with a good cast and weird sex to boot!