Dr. Robert Ordway (Warner Baxter) is called to the home of Clyde and Harriet Travers (Robert Barrat and Mona Barrie). The Traverses were having a party when one of their guests, Walter Foster (George Meeker) took ill. Walter’s sister, Claire (Adele Roberts) says her brother is diabetic. George keeps a syringe and insulin with him at all times. Ordway administers George his insulin. Soon after that George dies. Suspecting something is not right Ordway ask his police friend, Inspector Burns (Charles D. Brown) to look into George’s death. The coroner, Dr. Steiner (Charles Lane) confirms the cause of death as poison. Someone replaced George’s insulin with poison.
Burns asks Ordway to help in the investigation. Ordway begins questioning people who were at the party. Ordway finds out that no one really liked George and some were actually glad he was dead. George had squandered his inheritance and was tapping his sister, Claire, and any woman he could charm. Blackmail was also something he dabbled in. Claire calls Ordway and asks him to come over to discuss some information she has. By the time he gets there she’s disappeared. Now Ordway also has a kidnapping to investigate.
Ordway tracks down George’s latest girlfriend, Connie Day (Peggy Converse), who works at a mortuary. Suddenly she disappears and an attempt is made on Ordway’s life that blinds him. Now deeply involved, Ordway learns of a criminal enterprise that involves criminal plastic surgery run by a mysterious doctor.
“Just Before Dawn” AKA “Exposed by the Crime Doctor” was released in 1946 and was directed by William Castle. It is a crime mystery. The movie is the second Crime Doctor film that was directed by Castle. It is also the sixth in a series of ten Crime Doctor films that were based on the radio program of the same name. All ten films starred Warner Baxter as Robert Ordway, the Crime Doctor.
This was a decent mystery that has some interesting twists and turns along the way. It had a decent pace and incorporated quite a few plot points in its mere 65 minutes in length. Some of that could be attributed to William Castle’s style of directing. The suspect list is a little long and there are a couple red herrings but the subplot that runs through the film adds some eerie atmosphere. The title is a bit of a misnomer since nothing really happens in the movie, just before dawn.
Martin Kosleck puts in a creepy performance as Karl Ganss, the undertaker. Unfortunately, his part is too small. Marvin Miller as the deadly Casper is also gloriously evil and quietly deadly. As part of the subplot, they were more interesting than the main plot.