Friday, April 24, 2020

WATCH IT HERE! Forgotten Books on Film: THE LADY IN THE MORGUE by Jonathan Latimer (1938)

I just read this book again, for the third or fourth time, and it was laugh out loud funny. Again. Can't say the same for the movie, but they did a pretty good job of wrangling the plot into 110 minutes. But as with The Westland Case (HERE), everything is condensed and sanitized, robbing it of much of the fun.

A few cast changes of note: In this book, Crane and Doc Williams have another detective pal (and drinking buddy) named O'Malley in tow. He's missing from the film. Colonel Black, whose presence in the book is limited to telegrams and phone calls, makes a brief appearance. Lieutenant Strom, the police detective from The Westland Case, returns here in place of the book's Lt. Grady. Ethnic character names Paletta, Udoni and Liebmann are changed to Collins, Taylor and Horn. Actress Barbara Pepper, who played the Mae Westish Miss Hogan, returns here in a different sultry role. Character Verona Vincent, for no reason I can fathom, is renamed Arlene. 

And we're saved from seeing anything objectionable. The naked "Lady" of the title role is not seen here at all. We do at least hear that she was naked when found dead. Women in the taxi-dance joint are fully clothed, rather than in their undies. And instead of crawling into bed with a naked woman (and man) to escape the cops in the book, Crane simply hides in the woman's closet. And (sadly) no one at all gets their head chopped off. 

As in The Westland Case, Crane is habitually sleepy instead of drunk. And in this film, though he's seen with a drink or two, he doesn't get drunk at all! That's not the Crane I know. 

My favorite scene in the book, a wild and wacky visit to a penthouse party, is included here, though in predictably tamer form. 

Bottom line, there's less drinking and less lechery than we saw in The Westland Case (which was itself watered down), so you'll just have to read the ding dang book (discussed HERE). But I don't feel a bit sorry for you. You'll enjoy the hell out of it. 

The third and last film in this series, THE LAST WARNING (based on The Dead Don't Care) was also released in 1938. One online outfit offers a copy, but reviewers warn they're notoriously unreliable. So I don't have it. If anyone out there can send me a copy (for which I will gleefully reimburse you), I'll stick that up on YouTube, too. 

Next Friday: Frank Gruber's THE FRENCH KEY


Angela M. Sanders said...

Another satisfying Friday night movie! Thanks!

Joel Lyczak said...

Well, I finally got to see this. One thing I can say, the dialog was ok, but needed snappier back and forth between the characters. Thanks for posting this, Evan.

Debbie Roth said...

The Last Warning is on Internet Archives, my source of last resort, particularly for older films: