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7/10
Pretty, And Not-So-Pretty Poison
ccthemovieman-112 February 2008
Most of this movie is a "did-she-or-didn't-she-do it?" story. Two family members have been poisoned and it looks like the mother, "Lynne Cameron" (Jean Peters) is the killer, but it's hard to prove. As the film goes on, one has more and more doubts whether she did it. Perhaps the innocent-sounding "Uncle Cam" (Joseph Cotten) is the killer. Hmmmm.....which one is it? Was it the pretty Peters or Cotten?

For most of the short movie, it was entertaining. It began to drag a bit in the last third but the film, since it is short, should keep your interest enough to find out who's the killer and how she-or-he did it.

I agree with those posters who felt the ending was a bit disappointing. I was looking for something a little more clever than was presented.

I'd also liked to have seen more scenes with the two supporting actors: Catherine McLeod and Gary Merrill. Both actors were fascinating. McLeod played "Maggie Sargent," the first character in here to suspect foul play after a child's death. Merrill played her husband, "Fred." He also was "Cam's" lawyer.

McLeod is deceptively good-looking and I wish I could see more things she did, but her IMDb resume indicates she mainly acted on television in the 1950s.

Overall, this is definitely worth one viewing. It is usually worth seeing the sexy Peters in her prime before she went into retirement a few years later. She did four films in 1953 and three more the next year, several of them being good film noirs ("Pickup On South Street" and "Niagara.")
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'Don't touch my feet!'
robert-temple-118 August 2011
This is a superb and sophisticated murder mystery. Joseph Cotten is in peak form as the lead man, Whitney Cameron, who is called to the bedside of his young niece, who is dying in hospital. The child dies of mysterious convulsions, enigmatically and inexplicably crying out: 'Don't touch my feet!' The plot thickens from there, and the strange cry is discovered to have a meaning after all. This is a first rate early fifties noir with Cotton, Jean Peters as his sister-in-law, and Gary Merrill as his lawyer friend. It is excellently directed by Andrew Stone and should be better known than it is. The story is cleverly developed, and the mystery lasts up until the very end of the film. The question is: who poisoned the niece with strychnine, and why? And who will be next? Cotton is urbane, reassuring, and very solid in the main role. Jean Peters is rather more arch than usual, with a character portrayal which is intentionally ambivalent, just to keep us all guessing. One does not know whether she is a femme fatale or not, and the whole point is that no one knows, even within the story. This is a most ingenious whodunit which will not disappoint any viewer.
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6/10
Blueprint meets minimal production codes for suspense
bmacv29 September 2002
Blueprint for Murder is little more than a suspense-generating contraption, of which Alfred Hitchcock, applying his sadistic perversity, might have made a memorable meal. As it happens, Andrew Stone doesn't do too shabbily by it either, though it remains four-square and plot-driven. Part of his success is that he's abetted by an above-average cast which lifts it out of its mechanical origins.

Joseph Cotten returns to New York to visit his brother's second wife – and widow (Jean Peters); his timing proves inopportune, as his young niece goes into convulsions and dies in hospital. Cause of death remains a puzzler until a family attorney (Gary Merrill) reveals that Peters stands to benefit should both her stepchildren predecease her (a stepson may be next on her list). Though Cotten carries a small torch for Peters, his concern for the surviving son wins out, and an autopsy shows the girl died of strychnine poisoning. Peters ends up going to trial but is acquitted. Cotten, however, remains unconvinced, and, unbidden, joins Peters and his nephew on an ocean liner bound for Europe. He hopes to unearth the truth by means of trial by ordeal....

Surprisingly convincing, Peters takes on the role of a reserved society wife (as with most of Howard Hugues' `protegees,' she had more sides to her than the ones her Svengali wanted seen). As her housekeeper who also falls, albeit briefly, under suspicion, Mae Marsh turns up – the luminous star of D.W. Griffith's Judith of Bethulia, Birth of a Nation, and Intolerance (she was donning many a lace cap as a string of maids in this Indian Summer of her stardom).

Stone keeps the movie running along at a good clip and keeps tilting the ambivalence to the very end (Is Peters a wronged woman or a murderous monster? Does Cotten have a buried agenda of his own?). To be sure, certain coincidences and turns of plot don't bear prolonged scrutiny, but they're not allowed to become incapacitating lapses of logic, either. Blueprint for Murder meets the minimal production codes for suspense.
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7/10
A whodunnit with poise, maybe too much poise, but clever and smartly made
secondtake22 June 2011
A Blueprint for Murder (1953)

A clean, old-fashioned murder mystery, brightly lit, and even including a voyage on a cruise ship to Europe like some Betty Davis movie, or Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. It's a crime standard at the end of the film noir era, with a terrific star who never quite fit into any genre very well, Joseph Cotten. It's smart and fast and strong and almost believable, at least until the drawing room high stakes of the end, which is just great movie-making.

Cotten plays Whitney Cameron, and he's visiting his niece in the hospital. Quick facts pour on (and are slightly hard to follow at first): she has some strange affliction, her father (Cameron's brother) died of a strange affliction a few years earlier, and the stepmother is sweet as cherry pie, though she plays a demonically fierce romantic piano. Then the niece suddenly dies, and before Cameron leaves the scene, suspicions arise about the stepmother.

By the way, stepmothers can do terrible things that mothers would never do to their own children, like murder them. And so we are led down that obvious path. Soon, however, we know that the movie can't be quite that simple, and another suspect clarifies. The view is left deciding who is playing the better game of "not me." It's good stuff, very good, though constrained and reasonable, too. We don't always want "reasonable" in a film.

The stepmother is excellent, played by Jean Peters, and a helping couple is also first rate, especially Gary Merrill as a lawyer friend. Merrill was in "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and "All About Eve," and is partly why those are great films. Peters plays the cheerful innocent here just as she did in a another pair of masterpieces, "Niagara" (with Cotten) and "Pickup on South Street" (a true noir from the same year as this one).

It's Cotten who drives the movie, however, and he has a tone rather similar to his similar "visiting uncle" role in "Shadow of a Doubt." He is, in fact, a kind of soft-spoken, dependable icon in many movies (and later lots of t.v.) and it's because he's so normal that I think he's less adored. But he's exactly what the movie needs, guiding us first through the police investigation and then the informal one of his own. It had the makings of a tightly woven classic.

Why are there so many films that are quite good but not amazing? I think a little of everything, often, but here it's the story itself that is limiting. A great idea, surely, but a little too familiar in its basic plot, and quite simple. A second plot, or another suspect, or another murder along the way would have been just fine. I think the directing (by Andrew Stone) is competent but lacks vision, and an unwillingness to push the edges a little. It proceeds, and we don't want movies to simply move along. There are, however, some excellent scenes, like one in the police office early on where the two leading men are led from one desk to another, from one group of cops to another, in a flowing, backward moving long take. It's a lesson in first rate cinematography, actually.

And in fact the movie is totally enjoyable, never slow, expertly done, with a good cast.
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7/10
Suspense till the very end
brice-186 February 2008
Rightly released on DVD in a double-bill format, for which it was clearly intended for the bigger screen, and very plainly directed by Andrew Stone, this is nevertheless a gripping thriller which keeps one guessing until the very end. Joseph Cotten had some form as a murderer in previous films and is sufficiently shifty to suggest that he might be one now. In my youth I fancied Jean Peters, a beauty with a brain, and was grieved when she succumbed to Howard Hughes. Here she is excellent as the presumed femme fatale. Gary Merrill is wasted, but Catherine McLeod is fun as his astute wife. The sets are obviously from studio stock, but this hardly matters: this is an Agatha Christie style nail-biter and it hits the spot!
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7/10
Mysterious Deaths Trigger Fears & Suspicions
seymourblack-127 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In this offbeat but very enjoyable crime thriller, a couple of mysterious deaths in the same family raise fears for the safety of a child and suspicions of murder that are hard to prove. The story is given its momentum initially by a quick series of interesting revelations and then later, by the urgency with which it becomes necessary to act in order to ensure that no harm comes to the apparently endangered child.

Having been notified that his young niece Polly is seriously ill, businessman Whitney "Cam" Cameron (Joseph Cotten) rushes to the hospital where she's being treated and is relieved when he's told that she seems to be making a successful recovery. He's troubled by the fact that her doctor is unable to make a definite diagnosis of what she's suffering from but, in the circumstances, returns with his widowed sister-in-law Lynne (Jean Peters), to her home where he gets reacquainted with his young nephew Doug (Freddy Ridgeway). Doug (who's Lynne's stepson) is upset about his sister's suffering, especially because she'd kept saying "don't touch my feet" and this reminded him of his father uttering the same words when he was ill with a similar mystery illness from which he never recovered. Cam is very fond of both Lynne and Doug and is later distressed when Polly suffers a relapse and dies.

Later, Cam goes to visit his old friend and family lawyer, Fred Sargent (Gary Merrill) and his wife Maggie (Catherine McLeod). During one of their conversations, Maggie remarks that from her research as a writer for the "pulps", Polly's symptoms were similar to those suffered by people who'd been poisoned with strychnine and as Cam's brother Bill had died in similar circumstances, this possibility should be considered. Cam and Fred initially laugh off Maggie's observations but then Fred (in a later conversation) adds that under the terms of Bill's will, Lynne would only be able to inherit his estate if both his children had died before receiving their inheritances. Maggie also then remarks that her research had shown that most cases of killing by poison never actually lead to a conviction.

This information and the results of an autopsy carried out on Polly's body make Cam very suspicious of Lynne's role in Bill and Polly's deaths and extremely anxious about the welfare of his nephew, Doug. His concerns are then heightened further when Lynne announces that she intends to take Doug on a trip to Europe for about a year. Without giving them any indications of his intentions, Cam simply turns up on the ocean liner which is taking Lynne and Doug to Europe and carries out an elaborate plan to discover whether or not his suspicions about Lynne (who was his brother's second wife) and his concern for Doug are indeed justified.

Despite its modest budget, straightforward plot and relatively short running time, "A Blueprint For Murder" generates plenty of suspense and intrigue especially because pieces of information emerge at different times that throw doubt on Lynne's guilt. Probably the movie's greatest asset though is its cast who are consistently good. The ever-reliable Joseph Cotten is marvellous as the kind and well-mannered Cam and Jean Peters gives a compelling performance as the sophisticated socialite whose composure always seems unshakeable. Gary Merrill and Catherine McLeod are also very good in their key supporting roles.
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7/10
Nice little murder mystery, though nothing too special
The_Void13 October 2007
I love a good murder mystery, and while I can't really put this film at the top end of its genre; A Blueprint for Murder offers an interesting story, a conniving femme fatale and a modus operandi ripe for questions being asked. The plot is very straight forward in the way that it plays out, and it has to be said that there's not a great deal of tension or suspense; but the characters are interesting and the film never becomes boring. The plot, which focuses on a woman who is suspected of murdering both her step-daughter and her husband due to her husband's will, which states that she will inherit his fortune if she outlives his children, is not as shocking now as it probably was in 1953, though that doesn't particularly make the film any less effective. James Cotten is the hero of the piece, and while I believe that he is put to better use as the villain, such as he was ten years earlier in Hitchcock's masterpiece 'Shadow of a Doubt', he does fit into this role well. He is joined by Jean Peters who doesn't look like someone could murder a child, but that really is a credit to the film as it keeps the mystery as to whether she did it or not in place much better than if a more foreboding actress was chosen. The mystery itself is never all that mysterious; the film doesn't offer up any red herrings or opportunities for a twist, and it's more a case of 'did she or didn't she', which is a shame. It boils down to the sort of ending that you would expect, though it plays out well and the ending is certainly the most tense part of the film. Overall, this is a very decent little fifties B-movie that is unlikely to overly impress anyone; but it's entertaining enough, and I enjoyed watching it.
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7/10
Slick
Panamint13 February 2015
This is a slick Hollywood film from the 1950's made for entertainment purposes. Hollywood at its most confident and smooth, it is made to sell movie theater tickets and give you your money's worth. It delivers in that regard.

Good black and white photography and an a-picture gloss in all production values. Speaking of gloss- Mr. Cotton was one of the classiest of film acting gentlemen, and in this film Ms. Peters matches him in a performance that is not in any way b-list. She is first class all the way here.

All of the supporting performances are excellent. This is a straightforward movie mystery that does not mess with your head- what you see is what it is. I very much enjoyed the linear script that builds momentum into a swelling wave that reaches a crescendo right before everything is resolved.

A nocturne composed by Frederik Chopin in the 1830's matches the dark undertones at work throughout the film as it is applied in a background way as it should be rather than as a boffo film theme. I ordinarily would not recommend such structured classical music for a film but this one is melodic and was deliberately written by Chopin to be quietly dark, so it works.

Is "A Blueprint for Murder" just a glossy, slick Hollywood concoction? Yes but it is well edited and well made overall. It will provide you with entertainment from start to finish.
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10/10
How wicked is the step-mother, really?
mark.waltz29 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Film noir is an individual taste, and while the genre is certainly one of the most famous of classic movies today, there are so few that can be called "all-time classics". Certainly, when you say "Film Noir", you may think instantly of "Laura", "Double Indemnity", "Gilda", "The Big Sleep", among a few others. But then, there are the "sleepers", low-budget delights like "Detour" and "Decoy", cult classics like "Somewhere in the Night" and "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes", and later day film noir entries like "Cape Fear" and "The Manchurian Candidate". Some might rank the more obscure entries in this genre as just average, but there are hidden delights out there just yearning to be re-discovered.

"A Blueprint For Murder" took me totally by surprise, and I was not expecting the twists and turns of this exciting melodrama. It all starts with an unseen little girl screaming in ailment, supposedly due to viral encephalitis, but suspicions lead to more being revealed than meets the eye. The poor little girl's uncle (Joseph Cotten) arrives and exchanges pleasantries with Jean Peters, the girl's stepmother and widow of his late brother. They are seemingly very close, but certain factors begin to make him suspicious of her. His close friend (Gary Merrill) and Merrill's mystery obsessed wife (Catherine McLeod) give him the hints that something else could be up. Could the seemingly sweet Peters be a strictnine poisoning murderess? After the poor girl dies, Cotten keeps putting off leaving town on business, afraid that his nephew (Freddy Ridgeway) might become Peters' next victim. But there's no evidence to prove that Peters isn't anything more than a loving woman, and it is up to Cotten to go out of his way (here very desperately) to prove himself either right or wrong.

All the twists and turns are there for a desperate measure to reveal the truth, and it all culminates on a European bound steamship where Cotten himself might be revealed to be a killer. This is another chase between cat and mouse where the stakes are obvious. As Peters points out after her possible motives are exposed, Cotten has possible motive too. So the viewer begins to question what seems obvious as possibly being not so, and who seems to be good as being not so. The fact that romance slowly erupts between Cotten and Peters makes them a couple straight out of memories of MacMurray and Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity" and Mitchum and Greer in "Out of the Past". This one has a twist towards the end that left me with a dropped jaw and clutching my hands, both in tension and delight, as to the twists and turns of this film noir roller-coaster.
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Linear, standard
rmax30482310 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
There was a kind of symbiosis between radio dramas and movies in the 1940s and early 1950s. Radio plays from programs like "Suspense" were made into movies (eg., "Where the Sidewalk Ends") and vice versa (eg., Lux Radio Theater). This movie sounds like it was made from such a radio drama, whether or not it was. A voiceover by Cotton carries the listener -- I mean the viewer -- along, explaining inner feelings that might be better shown than described, covering action that takes place between scenes, and so forth.

The plot is straightforward and I won't describe it. The cast is pretty respectable but they don't do their best here. The problem is with Stone's direction. It's rudimentary. Nothing of interest is added to the plot visually or by way of incidental events. The performers recite their lines as if reading them from cue cards. And some of the actors -- Gary Merrill's wife, for instance -- overact as if instructed to do so by Cecile B. DeMille, as if it were a silent movie.

All comparisons are odious, of course, but there is a lot of eating in this movie. Characters enter a restaurant or a friend's apartment, shake out their napkins, and sit down to eat -- whereupon Stone dissolves to the next scene, as if finding nothing of interest in the meal. One salivates at the thought of what Hitchcock would have done with this movie. In one of these meal scenes the characters stand around waiting for a table and discuss the mechanics and symptoms of strychnine poisoning. The dissolve is relentless. Can you imagine Hitchcock filming this? The character wouldn't even bring up poison until after they had made their first slice into the beef Wellington. (Poor Cotton is stuck in these dull scenes after having done one or two much more interesting ones in "Shadow of a Doubt.") Hitchcock would certainly have added some much-needed humor to this rather flat script.

The director's laxity is most apparent in the climactic scene in which two men sit around watching Jean Peters to see if she collapses. If she does, she's proven herself guilty of murder. They give her five minutes and they sit silently and observantly while she carries on about how unjust and insulting this whole trial process is. The director turns her into a nervous wreck during these critical five minutes -- smoking incessantly, sweating, her voice trembling -- so that we're never really in much doubt about whether she's been poisoned, that is whether she's guilty. A more careful director would have had her cool as a cucumber, righteously angry, distant and disdainful of her observers. A viewer would have felt uncertain and perhaps a little guilty of the way Peters is being treated. Well, Peters is guilty, but the charges should be dismissed and brought instead against director Stone.
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6/10
Is Joseph Cotten reprising his role of Uncle Charlie?
krorie25 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a somewhat unusual programmer from 1953. Big name actors with tons of acting ability star in what appears to be a typical B movie, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters, Gary Merrill. The way the murder mystery is handled by writer-director Andrew L. Stone is also somewhat unusual. The audience has the prime suspect from the very beginning of the film. The questions unanswered to the very end are: Did Lynne Cameron (Jean Peters) really kill her husband and stepdaughter? Is she planning to kill her stepson? Joseph Cotten, who plays Lynne's brother-in-law tries to prove that she did and that she is. The viewer has to answer another question. Is Whitney 'Cam' Cameron (Joseph Cotten) the real murderer trying to put the blame on his sister-in-law? Is he actually playing another Uncle Charlie type character similar to his role in Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt?" This all makes for a nifty little thriller. The movie speeds along at a leisurely pace but never becomes boring. Not a bad way to spend 77 minutes.
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7/10
The easiest way to get away with murder is also the hardest...
AlsExGal20 April 2013
... that probably being that you just have to hope things go your way in a couple of categories. First, you need to be an upstanding member of the community - but not too upstanding so that you are a target for some ambitious D.A. Second, you need to commit the crime in a jurisdiction where either the police are too lazy or too busy to look past the superficial details, where they accept whatever an overworked coroner says - accident, suicide, some sudden illness. Third, and this is where the killer in this film does not luck out, you need to make sure the grieving relatives are not the inquisitive persistent type, respectable and able to get the attention of those in charge of criminal investigations.

Enter Whitney 'Cam' Cameron (Joseph Cotten), who makes a darned good villain as well as a protagonist, but here he's the good guy - or at least so he says. He lost his brother suddenly to encephalitis several years before, and now his niece has also died suddenly. The random remarks of Cam's little nephew, Cam's own inquisitive mind, and the fact that his close friend's wife is a writer of murder mysteries gets Cam suspecting his late brother's wife Lynn of murder. I'll let you see how everything unwinds yourself and who is brought to justice. Cotten narrates for almost the entire film, since he is trying to convince himself this woman is guilty even as he tries to prove her guilt to others - he has always liked her since his brother married her after the death of his first wife, thought she was a good stepmother to his brother's kids, and doesn't want to believe something so hideous, but he has to protect his brother's one surviving child, his nephew - again, so he says.

One thing that has changed since 1953, besides the fact that fashionable ladies and gents all wore hats ,is that a person could die in the hospital - quite possibly due to a fatal mix up by the hospital pharmacy - and that an investigating relative would be met by cooperative hospital personnel and not by an army of stonewalling attorneys and form letters. At least, that's one thing I noticed as Cam went about the hospital where his niece died trying to get the facts.

This is a very good mystery, yet Fox relegated it to half a bill on a Midnight Movie DVD. Give it a chance. It is not the fare usually associated with Midnight Movies - matrons baking cookies by day and turned ax murderer by night, wildlife run amok due to a nuclear blast, etc. Recommended.
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6/10
A nice performance from Jean Peters
bensonmum21 January 2009
After the mysterious death of his niece, Cam Cameron (Joseph Cotton) begins to suspect that the child's stepmother may be responsible. When the autopsy reveals the presence of strychnine in the girl's system, he's convinced that his dead brother's wife, Lynn Cameron (Jean Peters), is the only person with both a motive and the opportunity. Cam now begins to fear for the life of his nephew. He's got to act fast because Lynn intends to take the young boy to Europe.

While I've given A Blueprint for Murder a positive rating and I readily admit I mostly enjoyed the film, much of what I've got to write about is going to seem negative. As good as it is, it has far too many problems to be called great. A Blueprint for Murder is about the most straight forward mystery/thriller I've run across. And that's part of its biggest weakness. There's no mystery regarding the killer's identity. It's made quite clear early on that Lynn killed her niece. There seemed to be a half-hearted attempt to use Cam as a red-herring, but anyone with half a brain could figure out in 3.2 seconds that Cam couldn't have committed the crime - he wasn't there. Maybe I just imagined the light of suspicion being pointed at Cam because I so wanted to be thrown some kind of curve ball. Even though the killer is known, director Andrew L. Stone is able to wring some tension out of the final scenes as Cam tries to prove Lynn is a killer. You get the feeling that even though you know Lynn is responsible for the girl's death, she just might get away with it. These scenes are, however, undermined by an ending that's terribly rushed with action that, unfortunately, takes place off-screen. Too bad, because A Blueprint for Murder could have been much better.

One of the real highlights for me in A Blueprint for Murder was the acting. The performance of Jean Peters as Lynn Cameron is enlightening. I'm not overly familiar with her work, but she's marvelous as the apparent caring, wonderful parent who is hiding a cold, unfeeling heart. I may have to look for more of her work.
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Above average 1950's suspense
DCTommy12 March 2001
I agree with the viewer above who was disppointed in the ending. The acting overall was fine, but the plot was too disjointed and nonsensical in parts. My feeling is that the plot shifted whenever necessary to get the film to the next scene - dragging along the viewer whether it's a logical shift or not. For instance, at the beginning of the movie (not ruining anything for viewers!) Joseph Cotton approaches a doctor and asks about performing an autopsy - which would have ended the movie then and there. But no, the doctor says that he doesn't want to get involved, and the idea of an autopsy simply ends on that note. Cotten basically says, "Well OK" and the movie moves on to the next scene. At least the screenwriters could have come up with SOME other excuse to prevent an autopsy from occurring.... Anyway, there are irksome things like that throughout, but if you can ignore them, you can enjoy. As for the ending, it's a bit dull and nonsensical, again, and ends too abruptly.
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8/10
A little gem
ryancm14 October 2007
While not a great film by any means, A BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER offers some very fine moments of suspense and is a very good B movie. (B movies are usually never over 90 mins). The two stars acquit themselves well, especially Jean Peters, and underrated actress of the 50's and 50's. (See VICKI as well). The pacing is fine, but the ending needed a little more zip. For a while the movie has the viewer coming and going as to what really happened to the husband and little girl, both who died under mysterious circumstances. This makes a fine double bill with the above mentioned VICKI. Being a fan of Jean Peters, Fox should release a couple of other films she made for them, namely TAKE CARE OF MY LITTLE GIRL.
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5/10
If it walks like a B and talks like a B...
blanche-212 October 2005
I mean, was this a B movie? With Joseph Cotten? I want to say it couldn't have been, but boy, it sure felt like it.

"A Blueprint for Murder" is sort of a semi-documentary, black and white suspense film starring Cotten and Jean Peters. By the '50s, Peters, after going the Fox starlet circuit, vacillated between A films and B films, often doing supporting roles in As - but in roles that called for strong acting, such as "Niagara." She has a strong role in "A Blueprint for Murder" as well. The film also features Gary Merrill, who appears to have come to a sorry end with Fox, after a success in "All About Eve." He doesn't have much to do in this.

With the exception of Catherine MacLeod, who plays Merrill's wife, the performances are fairly low key, in keeping with a documentary style. MacLeod makes up for it - she's all over the place.

The plot is somewhat interesting - did Peters kill her stepdaughter, and is she planning on killing her stepson in order to inherit their money from her late husband, Cotten's brother? It isn't very well directed, dragging in spots, and kind of blowing it at the end. It could have been a very interesting, small film, given the cast. It really comes off as something for that new medium, TV.
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8/10
Murder is a suspicious thing.
michaelRokeefe27 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is a 20th Century Fox Film-Noir starring Joseph Cotten as Whitney Cameron with quite a quandary. No question that his sister-in-law Lynn (Jean Peters) is beautiful, outgoing...but just how trustworthy. Faithful and true comes to question when her husband and then her stepdaughter die mysteriously. Whitney, much to his displeasure, is forced to be suspicious of Lynn and her immediate actions. Will his fondness for her cloud his ability to act quickly enough to possibly prevent more killings?

Scratch your head and wonder. Written and directed by Andrew L. Stone this BLUEPRINT for MURDER is worth watching. Well acted and sustainable atmosphere. The cast also includes: Gary Merrill, Jack Kruschen, Catherine McLeod, Barney Phillips, Herbert Butterfield and Freddy Ridgeway.
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6/10
Solidly entertaining, if unmemorable.
Hey_Sweden24 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Joseph Cotten stars as Whitney "Cam" Cameron, the uncle to two adorable tykes. As the movie opens, the girl dies, and as it turns out, she was poisoned deliberately. Suspicion falls on Cams' sister-in-law Lynne (Jean Peters of "Pickup on South Street"), because she stands to gain the most from the death. Cam has his doubts, and will continue to have them for much of the story. Lynne just doesn't seem the type, appearing to have been a very devoted maternal figure to these kids.

It's that element of doubt that is the focal point of this routine but engaging mystery flick from 20th Century Fox. The filmmaking is reasonably stylish; Andrew L. Stone directs from his own script. Cotten does a decent job in the lead, but he's outshone by the pretty Peters, who is revealed to be quite a cool customer. Some viewers may feel that the conclusion is rather pre-ordained, but getting there is still fairly enjoyable. The finale consists of a showdown between Cam and Lynne where he waits to get some sort of reaction from her, but she never seems to be anything other than innocent.

A very strong supporting cast makes this easy enough to watch: Gary Merrill as Cams' attorney friend Fred Sargent, Catherine McLeod as Freds' wife Maggie, an author of pulp fiction, and Jack Kruschen and Barney Phillips as detectives. Jonathan Hole (as Dr. Stevenson), Mae Marsh (as the housekeeper Anna), Walter Sande (as the district attorney) and Carleton Young (as a ships' detective) are among those appearing uncredited.

At a mere 77 minutes, "A Blueprint for Murder" tells a sometimes tense story (with no filler) that goes on no longer than it needs to.

Six out of 10.
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6/10
Good performances adrift in low key, second rate mystery yarn...
Doylenf25 October 2005
Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters perform admirably in this little B-film programmer that would have been perfect for a radio program like SUSPENSE.

The slender yarn concerns a man (Cotten) who suspects that a widow (Peters) has committed two murders in order to collect her husband's insurance--and now his nephew is in danger of becoming the next victim.

But their performances can't disguise the fact that Fox has settled for a tale which is really a detective yarn that expects the audience to solve the dilemma facing Joseph Cotten without giving any real clues or facts to bring about a solution. We never know until the final scene whether or not Peters is a murderess. Add to this the fact that the final confrontation between Cotten and Peters has no real payoff once the truth is revealed, thus ending the film on a weak and unsatisfying note.

One gets the "could have been so much better" feeling after watching this, wondering whether a better director or a tighter script could have salvaged the whole thing to give it a sharper edge of suspense and a satisfying climax. Certainly the script could have been improved with regard to the final outcome.

The performances of Cotten, Peters and Gary Merrill are top notch but Catherine McLeod gives a not too subtle display of actressy over-emoting that grates on the nerves. She stands out like a sore thumb among a cast of pros. Furthermore, director Andrew Stone should have had a better control over his material.

The shipboard scenes seem to take place on sets used for Barbara Stanwyck's TITANIC. Passes the time as a mystery but not quite good enough to recommend. Second rate.
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5/10
Poison is hard to detect and harder to prove
bkoganbing16 April 2012
Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters star in A Blueprint For Murder a nice tight noir thriller for 20th Century Fox. This film starts with the death of Cotten's niece and Peters stepdaughter. Despite some major flaws the film does proceed to a tension building climax.

For one thing the fact that a healthy 17 year old girl dying suddenly and mysteriously would have set off alarm bells. My 34 year old sister who died suddenly and of natural causes had an immediate autopsy ordered by the New York City Medical Examiner. It's no different in Los Angeles and that would have shown the strychnine poisoning. Cotten would have had to do nothing to get the investigative ball rolling.

But the premise here is that murder by poison is hard to detect and more difficult to prove. People have accidentally taken poison all the time. Even with a lack of evidence Cotten persuades the District Attorney to bring an indictment and it's thrown out of court due to lack of evidence. That's the second flaw in this film, double jeopardy should have attached to Peters.

Still Cotten persists and the film comes to a climax with he and Peters in a duel of nerves. What Cotten does is take one long chance with his own freedom to prove Peters guilty of murder. What he does is something you see A Blueprint For Murder.

I can't forgive the bad writing and faulty legal premises on which this film rests. Still it is enjoyable on its own level.
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Plows Straight Ahead
dougdoepke19 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Unusual movie since it's hard to adequately comment without giving away the ending. It's an efficient little suspenser, but nothing more. And that's too bad because the premise has more exciting possibilities than what's there on screen. The problem lies, I think, with the way the project was conceived as nothing more than a low-budget, 70-minute, quickie. It looks like the producers went out and hired a director then making his reputation on just such uncomplicated movie fare, Andrew Stone. He's perfect for the concept with his straight-ahead, documentary style that cares little for artifice or character. The script too plows straight- ahead with little subtlety or ambiguity. Thus a potential that would add the vital extra dimension of mystery or whodunit is eliminated from the outset, resulting in a straight suspense film with no surprises.

Now I was slow to catch on. I kept looking for twists or some kind of ambiguity that would open up a mysterious aspect and leave me guessing. But there isn't any. The streamlined screenplay is utterly without artifice, which may have suited Stone, but left me with an ending that's not only badly contrived but also with the feeling that this can't be all there is. It's like taking a sight-seeing trip that keeps you watching, but ends up without any memorable sights to see.

Too bad that fine actor Joseph Cotten is wasted in a role that could have gone to dozens of less talented male leads. There is so much room for ambiguity that would have engaged his talent, instead of turning him into a basically one-dimensional bloodhound. I sympathize with those posters who regret that the master of suspense and subtlety, Alfred Hitchcock, didn't get hold of the material first. Jean Peters is fine, and I can see why the notorious womanizer Howard Hughes slapped a ring on her finger if only for a little while. But that final scene of waiting her out is so utterly implausible. After all, what does she gain by risking agonizing death since she's trapped on board ship where a trip to ship's doctor can be easily verified. Once she drinks the cocktail, her fate is sealed, and it's foolish of the screenplay to pretend otherwise.

In passing—note how at ease director Stone is with the cop scenes. I detect a Dragnet influence from the TV series, even down to series veterans Phillips and Kruschen. Put that sort of material, such as The Night Holds Terror (1954), in Stone's hands and his single- minded devotion to procedure and plot works really well. Where it doesn't work so well is reducing potentially complex material like Blueprint to routine docu-drama.
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8/10
Fifty Years Ahead Of Today's Headlines
Handlinghandel9 October 2005
The notion of a woman's poisoning not only her husband but also two children must have been shocking in 1953. Today it is all too commonplace.

Did Jean Peters do this or did she not: That is the subject of this very exciting movie. Joseph Cotten is Peters's brother-in-law. He gives a cool, calm performance, those this grand Hollywood diction is annoying. (This was by no means limited to him. Few big stars escaped it when the big studios ruled.) Peters is very good, also, as is the supporting cast.

In a way this is a companion piece to "Dangerous Crossing." It too takes place, in good part, on an ocean liner. They are equally exciting, though the premise of this is uniquely shocking. This has the punch of such Jacobean tragedy as "The Duchess of Malfi."
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'Don't touch my feet!'
robert-temple15 July 2011
This is a superb and sophisticated murder mystery. Joseph Cotten is in peak form as the lead man, Whitney Cameron, who is called to the bedside of his young niece, who is dying in hospital. The child dies of mysterious convulsions, crying out 'Don't touch my feet!' The plot thickens from there. This is a first rate early fifties noir with Cotton, Jean Peters as his sister-in-law, and Gary Merrill as his lawyer friend. It is excellently directed by Andrew Stone and should be better known than it is. The story is cleverly developed, and the mystery lasts up until the very end of the film. The question is: who poisoned the niece with strychnine, and why? And who will be next? Cotton is urbane, reassuring, and very solid in the main role. Jean Peters is rather more arch than usual, with a character portrayal which is intentionally ambivalent, just to keep us all guessing. One does not know whether she is a femme fatale or not, and the whole point is that no one knows, even within the story. This is a most ingenious whodunit which will not disappoint any viewer.
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6/10
Murder or accident?
helpless_dancer26 June 2002
When a man's niece dies mysteriously he suspects his sister-in-law of murdering the child for an insurance payoff. He waffles back and forth coming under a great deal of stress in his attempt to prove the woman committed homicide or is innocent but finally, in one desperate move, he settles the matter conclusively.
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8/10
A TICKING CLOCK BEFORE SOMEONE DIES...!
masonfisk26 May 2019
Joseph Cotten stars in this whodunit from 1953. A man is in town due to his niece being taken to the hospital from a mystery ailment. That she dies from it spouting weird exhortations to not touch her sparks a married couple's (friends of the uncle) memory that his brother, the girl's father, died under similar circumstances. Once an autopsy is performed, a determination of strychnine poisoning is found which prompts a confirmation when the girl's father is disinterred. Cotten now fears his last remaining relative in the family, his young nephew, may be in danger from his stepmother, the one suspect who stands to gain the family fortune if all remaining heirs have passed. What ensues is probably best described as an early Law & Order episode as the bulk of the running time is spent in procedurals (the gathering of evidence, the interview of witnesses & then an eventual trial) leading the hero to follow his sister in law & her charge on Europe bound sea voyage to prevent the murder he's convinced will happen. Running a scant 80 minutes, this potboiler puts its money where its mouth is, delivering the goods when a lesser film may belabor a longer running time in achieving.
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