Fog Island


Year 1945

George Zucco   as  Leo Grainger
Lionel Atwill as Alec Ritchfield
Sharon Douglas   as Gail (step-daughter)  
Veda Ann Borg as Sylvia
 
Director - Terrell O. Morse
Screenwriter - Pierre Gendron

This one doesn't fail all of the time, just enough of the time to qualify it for the under a rock category.

Here's the plot a falsely accused man gets out of prison and, in the seclusion of his mansion on Fog Island, he gets his revenge. Oh, and someone killed his wife while he was away, too.

What makes this different is that the man was once wealthy, so it's not some backstreet urchin or prize fighter who's looking for some payback. Oh no! It's some semi-dapper sixty something who put on weight while in prison who's taking the revenge trip.

Who has the motive for sending Leo Grainger (George Zucco) up river and killing his wife? Is it the Butler? The business partner? The other business partner? The still other business partner since you need a minimum of three? Perhaps it's the jilted secretary Sylvia (Veda Ann Borg) who also happens to be the person who gave the most damning evidence in court? How about the psychic he consulted who... Wait a second. The psychic? You're kidding? And let's go back to the secretary, too. Leo's too old for her.

A few words about Veda Ann Borg. For starters, the name is the real deal and not a stage name. Pretty neat. And she's pretty sultry in a, "What's a girl like that doing in a 1945 movie?" kind of way. There's something about her looks that makes her contemporary regardless of the decade (and probably loads of fun at parties). Back to the movie and the potential suspects.

Oh, and then there's the old cellmate who shows up unannounced. The movie plays out like a game of Clue, complete with implements of death. Was it the psychic with a fountain pen on the patio or was it a business partner with a knife in the study/living room/reception area?

Which is another head scratcher. This is movie based on a play. You know how well those translate. There are five locations, tops, to limit the number of scenery changes on stage. So, rather than have a study AND a drawing room AND library, it's all one big room. The guests eat dinner at one point, but since there's no dining room, it's done sort of off-stage between scenes.

Then there's the pipe organ in what must be the music room (it's too small to be a conservatory). Oh! You can have a music room with a full blown church style pipe organ to help you fall sleep to its dulcet tones! (I'm thinking pipe dreams) but you can't have a dining room? Really, at one point Leo says, "I'm going to bed. Play some music with woodwinds."

Characters loom a lot. If this was a stage, they'd be behind the second exit curtain on the right. But since this is a movie, they loom behind a door on the right that no one except loomers ever enters or exits. It's the doorway to The Land of Loom, but that's all.

There's a pretty cool basement that's entered via a secret passageway in the organ. Some of the pipes come away from the wall in the same way that a secret bookcase door opens with the books on the shelves. I'm assuming that the pipes making up the secret door don't work, so there's dead air or empty pedals or something.

("Oh, no, Sam! Don't play 'As Time Goes By'! Half of the notes are missing." You ask, "What if he used quarter notes instead of half of the notes?" The answer, "It only takes bank notes and change, so maybe the quarters will work." But I ramble derangedly and digress.)

The problem is that every so often, you think that maybe it's not too bad of a movie and maybe it'll get better. There is a pipe organ big enough to keep a cathredral full of people awake during even the world's most boring service in this movie and it's being used to play lullabies, people! It's not going to get better!

In the end, it's over and some of the characters unfortunately survive. Especially those who refused to take voice training. There's an upper crust Bostonian who often slips into Brooklynese along the lines of an early Tony Curtis who once said, "Yonda iz da cassel o' my fadda.".

All in all, though, thanks to some decent acting from everyone except Sharon Douglas, I kept watching and I'm glad that I did. I especially liked George Zucco. He managed to combine just the right amount of ability with hammyness to make his time on screen very enjoyable.


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