Saturday, May 19, 2018

Seven Sinners

A good two years ago, I recorded a movie called Doomed Cargo on TCM and watched it. For some reason I thought it wasn't on DVD so I never did a post on it. It turns out I was wrong and that the movie is on DVD under its original title, Seven Sinners. So I watched it again last night to be able to do a post on it.

Edmund Lowe plays John Harwood, who in the opening of the movie is on vacation on the French Riviera. He meets another man and, when he later goes to that man's room, he finds the man dead! Fortunately, Harwood is a detective, so he could work on the case if need be. But he's more needed by the American insurance company he works for, who have snet Fenton (Constance Cummings) to fetch him. In the meantime, the body Harwood saw has disappeared!

Anyhow, Harwood and Fenton take the overnight train to Calais to get to England where the insurance company wants him for that job. The train, however, gets in a crash, and it turns out that the signals were deliberately swtiched to cause the crash! Much more interesting is that Harwood swears he sees among the dead bodies the guy who he had seen in the hotel. He concludes that apparently somebody killed the guy down in Nice, and then disposed of the body by staging a train crash.

It's a bizarre idea, and Harwood's investigation takes him first to Paris, and then to London where he investigates a "peace" group that may or may not be on the level. Since the original killing took place in France, there's also a French investigator Turbé (Thomy Bourdelle) on the case. There's another train crash that kills a key witness, and then the possibility of a third crash, leading up to the climax and the reveal of who's behind these train crashes and why.

The screenplay for Seven Sinners/Doomed Cargo was written by Launder and Gilliat from a 1920s play; they're the same writing team that did Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. So it's not surprising that watching Seven Sinners that one notices a lot of things that make the movie look as though Hitchcock could have directed it. It plays out in many ways like The 39 Steps, which is really more about the various set pieces than the plot of what those steps are. Seven Sinners is even more confusing, however, and more abrupt in its ending.

Still, I'd say that Seven Sinners is entertaining enough for a 1930s programmer. I think that anybody who's interested in movies of the era, and especially pre-war British movies, would enjoy Seven Sinners.

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