(1937, US, 67 min, b/w) Dir Edgar G. Ulmer. Cast Francis Lederer, Margo, Olaf Hytten.
The first in the oddball Skull and Jones series. Lederer is the titular Jones, investigating supernatural mysteries with the aid of a skull (called Skull) that he carries around with him in a velvet sack and takes out to consult with when no one else is around. Called to the mansion of the recently deceased Hugo Noir by his daughter (Margo, the same year she and Lederer wed) who suspects that foul play and devilry were the cause of her father’s demise. His investigations take him beyond the sunny, palm-lined streets of LA and into the shadowy world of the occult, all leading to an explosive gun battle in a deserted night time Hollywood Bowl. An intriguing mix of horror and detective tropes with atmospheric direction from The Black Cat’s Ulmer and spry banter from all. Only one of two S&B starring Lederer before the torch was passed on a la James Bond – popular in its day, the series lasted for sixteen films and a short lived television series in the 1950’s. A blockbuster franchise attempt has been rumoured for the premise for some time, most recently with Johnny Depp in the lead.