LONDON BLACKOUT MURDERS (1942)
In WWII London, Mary McLeod has been left all alone after her family house was destroyed and her parents killed in an air raid, so she is given a room above a tobacco shop. The owner of the store, John Abbott, seems friendly but also a little aloof and maybe mysterious. A dog-owning old harpy (Anita Bolster) is certain that Abbott is up to no good in the evenings, and it's rumored that the room McLeod is occupying was the site of one of Jack the Ripper's murders many years ago. As it turns out, there is something strange going on in the neighborhood: a series of murders which occur during blackouts and air raids. The victims are seemingly respectable men who are poisoned in public by someone wielding a hypodermic. McLeod notices that Abbott, a former physician, has a hypodermic hidden in his pipe. When McLeod's Dutch soldier boyfriend arrives, she confides her suspicions to him. As we already know, Abbott is indeed the Blackout Killer, but the real mystery is his motive. He seems to choose his victims carefully—but why?
The first 40 minutes of this B-thriller are quite good. The shadowy atmosphere works well and Abbott (pictured) does a nice job keeping us off-balance—even though we know from early on that he is the killer, we can't quite puzzle out the why. He has a thuggish partner (Carl Harbord) who gives Abbott information about the men he's targeting; Harbord wants to do the killing as well, but Abbott won't let him. Lloyd Corrigan is a Scotland Yard inspector who zeroes in on Abbott but can't find concrete evidence to back up his suspicions. Unfortunately, the ending plays out in a most undramatic fashion, and the ambiguous vigilante-style morality in which Abbott has indulged is left mostly unexplored. Still, Abbott and the atmosphere are reason enough to recommend this to B-movie fans. [Netflix streaming]