Ginger Rogers and Lyle Talbot are rival newspaper reporters always trying to outscoop each other. They join together to solve a series of murders being committed in an apartment building
Ginger Rogers ... Pat Morgan
Lyle Talbot ... Ted Kord
Harvey Clark ... Peterson, the Janitor
Purnell Pratt ... Police Insp. Russell
Lillian Harmer ... Augusta, the Housekeeper
Arthur Hoyt ... Wilfred
Louise Beavers ... Maid (as Louise Beaver)
Clarence Wilson ... Editor Perkins
Though slow-moving and obviously done on a low budget, "A Shriek in the Night" has a pretty good mystery story, and features a good role for Ginger Rogers as a reporter trying to solve the crime.
The story concerns a series of murders committed in an apartment building, in which each of the victims had received a cryptic anonymous letter before their death. Rogers' character goes undercover to investigate, and she finds herself in conflict both with the police and with a rival reporter (Lyle Talbot). The two reporters try to mislead and trick each other even as both are trying to solve the murders.
Most of the story is rather slow-moving, but towards the end things start to happen quickly, and it is worth waiting for. Rogers plays her part well, and there are a few moments of humor.
While overall it is a rather plain movie, if you like old mystery stories you will probably find it worth watching once.
A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT (Allied Pictures, 1933), directed by Albert Ray, reunites Ginger Rogers and Lyle Talbot of THE THIRTEENTH GUEST (Monogram, 1932), in another mystery thriller.
Following the opening credits, the story begins at night with a view of an apartment building (obviously a miniature model) followed by the sound of a scream, an overhead view of a man's body (obviously a dummy) falling down from the penthouse above and landing on the sidewalk below. The incident immediately draws a crowd which awakens a janitor (Harvey Clark), whose residence is in the basement level, to be awaken from the noise to soon come outside to hark the identity of the body as "Mr. Harker!" Enter the police: Inspector Russell (Purnell B. Pratt), whose philosophy is, "I'm an inspector and I can say anything I want," and his assistant, the dim-witted Wilfred (Alfred Hoyt), who arrive at the scene of the crime at 921 Lake Street to investigate whether the death of the penthouse millionaire to be suicide or murder. Russell and Wilfred soon encounter a young girl named Patricia Morgan (Ginger Rogers), acting as Harker's secretary but in reality is a reporter for the Morning News out to get a story following a hunch regarding Harker's association with a racketeer named Josephus Martini (Maurice Black). Also there to out-scoop Pat is Ted Rand (Lyle Talbot) of the Daily Express, who becomes responsible for Pat's getting fired by Perkins, her editor (Clarence Wilson) for accidentally telephoning her own story to Ted, believing him on the extension to be the rewrite man from her paper. Hoping to redeem herself and solve Harker's murder, Pat continues to investigate, only to encounter more killings before she herself becomes the murder victim by nearly being placed in a blazing incinerator.
The supporting cast includes Lillian Harmer as Augusta, the shrieking maid who not only enjoys reading mystery magazines, but adds to the confusion with her bewilderment; Louise Beavers (with surname billed in the credits as Beaver) as the black maid who also shrieks after finding a body of a man named Colby in one of the apartments; and Cyril Ring, among others whose names have gone uncredited.
A mystery melodrama that combines the elements of mystery and comedy, A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT, which may not be in the higher league had it been directed by Alfred Hitchcock, does have some potential in spite of its low budget values. Lacking background mood music to add to suspense, fine moments include a shadowy figure seen through the silhouette on the wall listening to the telephone extension as certain characters, especially the two main characters, are conversing their thoughts about the Harker case. Maurice Black as the stereotypical Italian gangster and secretive loner also residing in the apartment building, also adds to the mystery.
While THE THIRTEENTH GUEST is better known of the two Rogers and Talbot collaborations, A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT has had more exposure on late night cable and local public television stations during the 1980s. Because of similarities, A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT is sometimes mistaken as a sequel to THE THIRTEENTH GUEST. It's interesting to point out that Ginger Rogers uses the same surname of "Morgan" in both films as well as belting out a scream or two when confronted by the unidentified killer.
As a "public domain" title, A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT has been distributed through various video manufacturers, including one company that used a more glamorous 1940s looking picture of Ginger Rogers on the storage box in spite that this is an early 1930s film that at times, due to sporadic echoes with the dialog and some poor lighting, plays like something right out of 1930. Whether its the film itself or the aging process is uncertain, but restoration in sound and clearer picture quality might help. The fact that A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT presents a youthful, yet almost unrecognizable and slightly brunettish-blonde Rogers in a "poverty row" production sporting some unattractive gowns designed by Alberta, shortly before her acclaimed popularity at RKO Radio and association with Fred Astaire in those lavish dance musicals through most of the 1930s, her quick and sassy one-liners and love-hate relationship with rival reporter (Talbot) while solving a mystery, manage to keep the pace going during its 66 minutes of screen time