Directed by Robert F. Hill [Other horror films: Shadow of Chinatown (1936, serial), Shadow of Chinatown (1936)]
Another dark-and-rainy night mystery movie? Yes, please. This B-picture, maybe even C-picture, lacks much of the artistic nature of some previous films in the genre (The Cat and the Canary, The Bat Whispers, etc.), but it still ends up a fun movie, though not as fun as others.
The story is pretty much what you’d expect, which I don’t mean as a negative. Generally, I like a lot of where this flick goes, what with the various red herrings and false leads, and the ending is pretty good with a rather surprisingly solid reveal.
Acting’s a bit of a mixed bag, but many of the most important characters (Wallace Ford, Clara Kimball Young, John Elliott, and Arthur Loft) did a pretty fine job. Barbara Pepper’s performance here could have been better, but I think it’s mostly the script, and not her, that was the problem. Joan Woodbury (who co-starred later in King of the Zombies) was a bit over-dramatic at times, but given she played a tarot card reader, that may make sense.
What hurts The Rogues’ Tavern the most, though, isn’t the sometimes less-than-stellar acting, it’s the third act, which seems to run a bit too long (despite the movie already being of shorter length). What may be worth mentioning also is that the print of this film most-commonly available has some glitches in the audio, and conversations sometimes can’t be heard. It didn’t happen that often, and I don’t know if it took away from the story, but there you go.
When all’s said and done, The Rogues’ Tavern is a fine example of this antiqued style of horror, but even as far as lower budget movies go, there are others I prefer, such as The Monster Walks and Midnight Faces. And while it’s not quite the same style, some of the witty banter here (much of which was actually pretty funny) reminded me a bit of A Shriek in the Night from 1933. This movie itself is a good way to pass the time, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Still, an above-average flick.