Film: 2554

Feature Drama | 1930 | Sound | B/W

Clip:

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Synopsis:

Part of a murder mystery set in nineteenth century London, a barber who murders his clients is found out with the help of his young apprentice.

A string purse full of pearls. A man in a frilly-fronted shirt with sideburns, apparently a sea-captain, shows them to the barber, a taller, thickset balding man in his barber's overall. The sea captain says the pearls would fetch a 'handsome sum' on the open market, and on the black market around seven thousand pounds. They argue about what to do with the pearls; the sea-captain says that he will take them and that the barber must give him the seven thousand for 'concealing the evidence'. The barber laughs at this, and the other threatens that otherwise he will reveal all that he kowsabout the murders the barber has commited included those of eight apprentices. As he speaks, he turns his back, and the barber hits him over the head with a chair, laughing to himself as he sits the limp body of the sea-captain on a chair, and disappears out of a curtained door.

A street outside the shop front with the sign 'shaving barber' inside both windows. People passing; a woman in a full skirt and shawl with her head covered leading a small boy by the hand, men in top hats and long hats. A boy of about eleven is about to go into the barber's shop when a gentleman in coat tails and a spotted waistcoat with a cane catches him up. The boy opens the door for the gentleman and they both go in. The boy, an apprentice, tells the customer that he is afraid of the place, and that the barber had sent him out because he thought he was spying on his talk with a sea-captain. The gentleman, who obviously has suspicions of his own, asks the frightened child if customer always disappear while he has been sent out, and the boy says that they do.

In the basement, the barber is dragging the sea-captain's body along the floor by his hands, helped by a woman in black with a cap and ringlets who agrees that the captain had known too much. The gentleman tells the apprentice not to come back when the barber sends him away; giving him an envelope he tells him to go to the address in Chelsea (?) and deliver the note to a woman, who will know who it is from if she is told that it bears his 'mark'. The barber enters the rom and speaks to the customer, who tells him that he has been recommended as giving the closest shave. The barber agrees, rubbing his hands together, and promises to 'polish off' his customer well too. He places him in a chair with a headrest, feeling around his neck.

In the street a man dressed as a monk, in a belted cowl and hood stands in front of an iron gate with a stone passageway behind. Looking around cautiously, he enters. In the kitchen in the basement of the barber's, barrels and a large stove behind, the woman who is the barber's accomplice is rolling up clothes on the table, and, pulling back the grate, pokes them into the fire. The monk, descending a flight of stone steps, gasps nervously as rats scurry in the corner. Upstairs, the apprentice boy lathers the customer as the barber sharpens his long kife on a whetstone. The customer deliberately tempts the barber, saying that he has four hundred guineas with him. The monk with his candle emerges from a low opening (fireplace?) in the basement around the corner from the steps. He looks around cautiously , putting the candle on the mantlepiece. He is in the kitchen where the woman had been, and he stops to steal a bun from the table, slipping it up his widde sleeve.

The apprentice, who has finished lathering the customer, is given a penny and told that he may get a pie - one big enough to last him to St Pancreas Church and back. The monk is hidding in the shadows downstairs. The boy leaves. The barber, saying that it is time to 'polish off' his customer, goes over the curtain and pulls a hidden lever which makes a whole section of floor flip over so that the upstairs floor becomes the roof of the cellar, the customer, still in the barber's chair, is suspended from the ceiling, while the floor above is replaced by what was below, which looks exactly the same, with an empty barber's chair. The monk look on speechless with astonishment, until the gentleman commands him to help him down quickly, then they both escape by the route that the monk took in, emerging outside the iron gate again. Coming downstairs to find his victim gone, the barber accuses the woman, who has just come back into the kitchen, of helping them out, saying that she did the same the day before. They fight, and the woman picks up a knife, but he twists it out of her grasp and chases her as she runs screaming.

A maid in black and white uniform swings open pannelled double-doors into a richly decorated room, ushering in the barber's apprentice. He gives the letter to a young lady in a check dress and ringlets, who sits down in supprise in a chair before the fireplaer, when the apprentice says 'mark', the word that the gentleman had said she would recognise. The lady asks the boy where he met the gentleman, and he tells her about the mystery of the barber's shop. (film ends here)


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