PAYMENT DEFERRED (1932) Director: Lothar Mendes.
In spite of a couple of missteps, Charles Laughton (pictured) gives an excellent performance as a bank clerk struggling with debt who commits a murder to achieve financial relief – only the good fortune brings as many problems as it solves. Dorothy Peterson and Maureen O'Sullivan are also excellent as Laughton's wife and daughter, and there is some fine work from Verree Teasdale as a shady lady Laughton dallies with to his regret, and Ray Milland as the young victim. Mendes adds some Hitchcock-like visual touches to the picture, including the splendid moment when Laughton gives his wealthy nephew (Milland) a drink spiked with poison: the camera remains fixed on Laughton, who is marvelous, as his hand shakes so violently that he spills his own drink all over himself. The film is interesting and absorbing but it does have some problems, including an unnecessary prologue showing a man buying the house where the murder occurred. During a scene that takes place the morning after the murder, Peterson and O'Sullivan seem to have forgotten that they're facing the threat of the poor house [they are unaware of what Daddy has done], and the post-revelation scenes don't really ring true. The victim is completely forgotten without a word expressed even by Peterson as to the tragedy of his early demise. Otherwise, this is a memorable look at a mind tortured by guilt and anxiety.
Verdict: Worth a look. ***.