Synopsis by Hans J. Wollstein
A rather nifty little science fiction-thriller/murder mystery from Poverty Row company Monogram, Mystery Liner was based on a Saturday Evening Post story by British pulp writer Edgar Wallace. Noah Beery starred as John Holling, the captain of an ocean liner equipped with a powerful scientific gadget, the S-505, capable of steering the vessel by remote control. The captain is taken unaccountably ill and replaced by First Mate Downey (Boothe Howard), who might or might not have poisoned him to get the job in the first place. But then the inventor of the S-505 (Ralph Lewis) is found strangled and all hell breaks loose. During the voyage, Downey suffers the same fate as the professor and foreign agents attempt to sabotage the steering device. The liner is virtually overrun with murder suspects -- from a mysterious foreigner (Gustav von Seyffertitz) to a cantankerous elderly passenger (Zeffie Tilbury) -- and the sudden reappearance of Captain Holling complicates matters to no end for the detective in charge (Edwin Maxwell). The culprit, needless to say, proves to be the least likely among the suspects although director William Nigh and screenwriter Wellyn Totman tip their hands a little too early. Typical low-budget fare, Mystery Liner is nevertheless well photographed by Archie Stout and for the most part capably acted. Astrid Allwyn (billed, for some reason, "Astrid Allyn") and mustachioed Cornelius Keefe, often seen as society snobs or outright villains, are pleasantly cast against type as the ship's nurse and second mate, respectively. A clean-shaven George "Gabby" Hayes lurks about in the background as the ship's watchman and British character actor Olaf Hytten pulls various scientific-looking levers and knobs as the professor's harried assistant. Top-billed Noah Beery has only two scenes and his casting seems to have been for name recognition only. Amazingly, despite its overall look of poverty, Mystery Liner was entered as a feature attraction at the 1934 International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art in Venice, Italy, the forerunner of the Venice Film Festival.
captain [ship], detective, inventor, murder, oceanliner, poison