Some 55 years before Dino De Laurentiis failed to lure audiences into theaters with the promise of a seven-digit payday for one lucky viewer of the wretched Million Dollar Mystery, RKO and super producers David O. Selznick and Merian C. Cooper launched a different kind of contest. Leading up to Crestwood’s premiere, the story was seralized as a radio drama with no ending — for that, listeners were asked to submit theirs, with a $6,000 prize for the best.
As the radio broadcaster informs the audience at the movie’s start, that doesn’t necessarily mean the ending was used. I’m uncertain if the film represents just the final chapter of the story, or the entire thing; regardless, it’s as creaky as its requisite old, spooky house.
Money-grubbing shrew Jenny Wren (Karen Morley, Scarface) throws a party for a bunch of rich guys out of whom she plots to wring big bucks. She doesn’t last, and the rest of the cast is tasked with figuring out who iced her at-large killer. Could it be the dude in the white mask who flits about the hallways?
For something with that kind of concept, Crestwood should be more fun than it actually is. I’ll give it points for doing something different — not to mention for what I assume was a daring, graphic-for-its-time suicide scene — but for a Phantom offering from Warner Archive that may have less of a pedigree, but is less of a pill, I’d suggest The Phantom of Hollywood. —Rod Lott
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• The Phantom of Hollywood DVD review