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The Unknown

The Unknown(1946)

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teaser The Unknown (1946)

Columbia Pictures adapted the adventures of radio crime fighters (and occasional ghost busters) Jack Packard and Doc Yarborough from the long-running I Love a Mystery series for three feature films, the last of which was The Unknown (1946). A whodunit/old dark house thriller with flavorings of outright horror (series director Henry Levin had previously helmed Curse of the Werewolf, a bid by Columbia to cash in on the craze for monster pictures popularized by Universal), The Unknown owes an obvious debt to The Cat and the Canary (1927) and The Old Dark House (1932) but anticipates in one particular detail Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd. (1950) by several years. Writing in The New York Times, critic Bosley Crowther summed the film up as "a bunch of loonies inhabiting an old Southern house which has underground rooms, sliding panels, a mausoleum, and no electric lights. It also has some sort of killer lurking menacingly in the gloom and a very dead Southern colonel walled up in a brick fireplace" while Variety branded The Unknown "spine-tingling fare for the horror hounds." Though Columbia pulled the plug on its I Love a Mystery franchise after this, the radio series continued on three different networks until 1953 and has been credited as a direct inspiration for the classic Hanna-Barbara animated series Scooby Doo, Where Are You!.

By Richard Harland Smith

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