Fingers at the Window (1942)
If one joined this movie just after the opening credits came to a close you would probably get the feeling that you were watching a Universal Studios thriller in the vein of the 1941 old dark house film The Black Cat. Perhaps even more so when you realize the star of that film, Basil Rathbone is one of our featured players here as well.
Surprisingly this nifty little thriller is an MGM production. The studio that has more stars than there are in the heavens. It’s a fast moving black and white thriller that reminded me of The Stranger on the Third Floor.
Lew Ayres is an out of work actor who happens upon Laraine Day late at night as she is returning home. Out of the shadows he sees a man wielding an axe. Not a good sign as there has been an overwhelming number of separate axe murders recently that number 5 in total. Each one has revealed a different killer.
Ayres takes it upon himself to become Miss Day’s personal bodyguard when a second attacker with an axe is spotted in her hotel. This sets in motion the theory that these are not random killings and Ayres sets out to prove it and win the hand of the fair damsel. After all as Ayres points out “She hasn’t got the brains of a pancake.” So she certainly is going to need him around.
Basil Rathbone takes time off here from his Sherlockian alter ego to play the type of role he first achieved a level of success with. The villain. He has the perfect voice to fit that of an evil hypnotist using poor souls to do his bidding and removing those who know of his past life. It’s up to Ayres to uncover the truth and bring justice to the proceedings.
Lew Ayres has fun with this role as the actor without a job who uses his various stage roles to go about solving the crime. Had the script been tweaked a bit, this might have made for a successful series back in the cinematic days of The Saint and The Falcon. Ayres was of course already attached to the run of Dr. Kildare films with his leading lady from this title Miss Day.
It’s always a pleasure to see Laraine Day on screen even if it’s in a modestly budgeted “B” picture. She was about to graduate from the Dr. Kildare films with Ayres and on to a couple of larger scale films opposite Cary Grant and Gary Cooper.
Rathbone is one of those gifted actors that commands the screen and easily takes your eyes off our young couple when he’s on camera. By the time of this film’s release he was in the middle of his iconic run playing the great Holmes on screen but would still turn up in other titles like this along the way.
Catch this one if you can as it’s what a “B” mystery should be. Fast paced, slick and professionally done with a cast of performers who know how to make the whole viewing experience fun and entertaining.