Directed by Roy William Neill [Other horror films: The Menace (1932), Black Moon (1934), The Black Room (1935), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), The Scarlet Claw (1944), The Pearl of Death (1944), The House of Fear (1945)]
Based off a forgotten novel from 1930 written by Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning, The Ninth Guest is an extraordinarily fun spiritual predecessor to Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (also known as And There There Were None).
While the story is certainly more mystery than it is horror, there are many suspenseful sequences in the film. The deaths are pretty good for the time period, my favorite being a rather brutal electrocution, complete with a terrible shrieking. The characters are all pretty interesting also, and the fact that they know each other (as opposed to Christie’s later work) lends to additional suspicion and tension as the film goes on.
Given the film is just over an hour, it’s not that much an investment, but even so, it’s still a positive that most of the performances are pretty entertaining. Vince Barnett (unsurprisingly) was used purely for comedic effect, and didn’t add much to the story. Everyone else, though, did well, my favorites being Sidney Bracey, Samuel S. Hinds, Edward Ellis, and Hardie Albright. Albright in particular was pretty captivating in his role, especially toward the end.
I really do love the mystery feel of these early horror films – The Bat, The Cat and the Canary, The Monster Walks; all films that I really enjoy. And given the classic set-up of this one, plus the pretty entertaining story, this movie really lives up to it’s expectations. I rather enjoyed it the first time I saw it, and this time I still found it a rather fresh film.