Cast & Crew
When two geologists vanish while exploring a huge swamp alleged to contain the gold of pirate Henry Morgan, officials of the United Oil Company, for which the missing men worked, send for Smith, a private detective from Brooklyn. Smith arrives on the tiny Caribbean island and meets Governor Gerald McCracken, Sr.; his secretary, Felix Ikert; police commissioner Col. Lane; coroner and town physician Rene Marcel and police lieutenant Bowman Hall. Lane and Hall are infuriated by the oil company's hiring of the wise-cracking, seemingly incompetent Smith, but Smith proposes that the scientists, as well as the other six people who have disappeared, could not have been merely lost in the swamp or killed by alligators, as Lane maintains. Smith substantiates his theory by showing the men the bullet hole in his hat, made when someone shot at him while he was wandering through the outskirts of the swamp. He also tells the officials that his associate, Carroll Gates, has been on the island conducting an undercover investigation. When Smith goes to Gates's hotel room, however, he discovers that his partner has been murdered. Mrs. Jean Gilbert, the hotel hostess, shows Smith into the adjoining room, and the ex-policeman begins his investigation in earnest. Later that night, Smith is almost hit by a knife thrown by an unseen assailant, but quickly jokes away his nervousness. He is then visited by Jean, who reveals that she and Gates had become friends during his stay. Gates believed that the disappearances were deliberate murders and gave Jean a map of the swamp to pass on to Smith if something happened to him. After their talk, Jean is murdered with the same dagger that was thrown at Smith, and because the weapon had been hanging on McCracken's wall, Smith becomes suspicious of one of the men who was present at his initial interview with the governor. The men laugh at Smith's assumption that pirate treasure is the motive behind the killings, and Lane vows to reveal the murderer at his house at ten o'clock that night. When the group arrives at the Lane home, however, they find that the police commissioner and his daughter Linda have been abducted. McCracken's son, Gerald, Jr., who is in love with Linda, accompanies Smith into the swamp, where he believes the Lanes were taken. The pair wander for two days until Smith fires his pistol in the belief that whoever committed the murders will take them to the island in the middle of the morass. They are found and taken to former rum runner Captain Van den Bark, who, along with the secret leader of the gang, is extracting pirate gold from the swamp and smuggling it to the United States. Van den Bark orders his righthand man, Hartshorn, to kill Smith and Gerald, but they succeed in wounding him and escaping. While Van den Bark and his other men load up the gold and prepare to leave the island, Smith and Gerald find Lane and Linda, who have not been harmed. Smith then captures Van den Bark, but as they board a boat to leave, Lane shoots him and states that he was trying to escape. Frustrated that Lane has killed his only witness, Smith claims that Van den Bark is only wounded, and then concocts an elaborate scheme back in town, where Dr. Praskins of the local hospital pretends to operate on the "injured" man. Knowing that the ringleader will try to kill Van den Bark, Smith lies in wait and soon captures Dr. Marcel. Marcel confesses that he was smuggling the gold out in coffins and committed the murders to protect his operation. Later, with the case wrapped up, Smith enjoys a game of darts with Linda and Gerald.
Lal Chand Mehra
Luis G. Basurto
W. Scott Darling
Clyde De Vinna
R. A. Klune
Harry M. Leonard
Fred J. Rode
The working titles of this film were Zombies of the Swamp and The Voodoo Mystery. According to an August 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, Reed Hadley, who plays the killer in the picture, was originally set for the lead role of the detective. Early screenplays for the film, contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, reveal that the detective was to be named "Wyeth," and that he was not a wisecracking ex-policeman from Brooklyn. The role was rewritten specifically for James Dunn between late 1944 and early 1945, after he had impressed Twentieth Century-Fox executives with his performance as "Johnny Nolan" in the studio's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Several reviewers commented on the studio's attempt to capitalize on Dunn's new status by having "Smith" constantly refer to his Brooklyn roots.
A October 24, 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Faye Marlowe had been set for a role in the production. Although Hollywood Reporter credits Charles G. Clarke as the photographer on the film's first production chart, the extent of his contribution to the completed picture, if any, has not been determined. Renee Carson is included in the cast by Hollywood Reporter production charts, but the appearance of this actor in the completed picture has also not been confirmed. The picture marked the directing debut of Robert Webb, who had previously served as an assistant director at Twentieth Century-Fox.
The studio had twice before filmed John W. Vandercook's book: in 1934, Louis King directed Nigel Bruce, Heather Angel and Victor Jory in Murder in Trinidad, and in 1939, Herbert I. Leeds directed Peter Lorre, Jean Hersholt and Amanda Duff in Mr. Moto in Danger Island (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.2997 and F3.2921).