Peggy Milburn (Grace Valentine) is looking for someone to promote her husband’s inventions. She develops a friendship with Roger. Roger misinterprets the situation and tries to sexually assault Peggy. Peggy kills Roger. At that moment her husband, Boyd Milburn (Henry B. Walthall) shows up. He ushers his wife out of the room and ends up taking the blame for the murder. Boyd is arrested and convicted. His sentence is life in prison. Before, during and after the trial Boyd is silent refusing to make a defense.
After fifteen years Boyd is paroled. While Boyd was in jail Peggy has been getting rich off her husband’s inventions. She now lives in a large mansion, has fancy parties and is using the last name Bainbridge. Boyd shows up and Peggy is not exactly thrilled to see him. When he went to prison Boyd’s daughter Dorothy (Nancy Welford) was a child. Peggy told her that her father had died. Now that she is a young adult he wants to get to know her. Peggy introduces Boyd as an old family friend.
Dorothy is in love with Paul Wallis (Ricardo Cortez) but Peggy is trying to get her to marry a slimy gold digger Marquis (Rolfe Sedan) because he has a title. When Dorothy announces her engagement to Paul, Peggy is once again not thrilled. Peggy threatens to destroy Paul’s reputation if Dorothy marries him. Boyd does some threatening of his own. He tells Peggy that if she stands in the way of Dorothy’s happiness he will tell her everything about who he is and Roger’s death.
In the meantime Paul is called over to Judge Thompson’s house. While Paul had been in jail Peggy had become friends with Judge Thompson (Thomas A. Curran). Thompson was the judge that presided over Boyd’s murder trial. Thompson tells Paul about Boyd and that he will be marrying into a family with a murderer in it. Paul gets pissed and threatens the Judge. When the Judge is murdered Paul is arrested and convicted. Boyd knows who the real killer is but, other than confessing to the crime himself, is powerless to do anything to help Paul.
“The Phantom in the House” was released in 1929 and was directed by Phil Rosen. It is a pre-code early talkie crime drama. A silent version of the film was made for release in theatres not yet equipped for sound.
First, there is no phantom in “The Phantom in the House” unless you count the web of secrets and lies between Boyd and Peggy. Second, there’s nothing really innovative here, except for the miracle of early talkies. Other than it being of historical value the film is rather slow paced and, for the most part, bland. Even the directing is slow and uneventful. It’s an old movie and it shows.
The plot is slightly better than the standard cliché. It had a couple twists and turns that helped but everything else about the film is uninteresting.
The only other bright spot to me was Ricardo Cortez as Paul Wallis despite the fact that he didn’t have a big part. I like Cortez and his style of acting. The others seem to be reading their lines on cue cards. In my opinion, Cortez’s performance was the only thing that saved the movie from utter boredom. Not to disregard Henry Walthall completely since he came in second.