Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Joseph Gibson ""

Friday, May 16, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Joseph Gibson

Joe Gibson is a Very Serious Cinephile living in Austin, T. He can be found on twitter @Karatloz and on Letterboxd (a highly recommended follow) here: The dude watches an INSANE amount of movies each year. Good stuff too.
I love detectives and I love mysteries so I was really excited to see that Rupert Pupkin Speaks is doing a feature on those two genres. Hopefully there will be at least one movie on my list that no one else writes about, but no promises.

A Scream in the Night (1935)
This is a detective movie starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as both the lead detective and one of the bad guys. Most of the people reading this have probably stopped there as that is enough to provoke extreme interest (it certainly was for me) but this is actually a pretty fun movie. The dual role is handled with some clever split screen effects, and I seem to remember that the main villain kills people with some kind of portable noose or something. Does anyone scream in the night? You'll have to watch it to find out!

The Invisible Menace (1938)
This is another 30s detective programmer starring a horror icon, in this case Karloff. I'm kind of reluctant to include it here because it probably isn't very underrated (it's not great), but I'm throwing it in because of how much of an asshole the detective character is. He beats false confessions out of witnesses and tries to coerce one out of Karloff, and it's very strange to see such a character in a movie of this type and from this era. 

The Saint's Double Trouble (1940)
I know a lot of people love Simon Templar, but after watching all the George Sanders Saint films, plus a few episodes of the Roger Moore series (plus an episode of the radio series with Vincent Price), I still don't really understand the character that well. But this is the best of the Sanders movies, and it continues the horror icon theme with an embarrassingly slight henchman role for Bela Lugosi. Why isn't Lugosi playing the main heavy? Because George Sanders is, of course - I must have a thing for dual roles.

The Whistler (1944)
You consider this a stand-in for all the Whistler movies, introduced to me by Man of Mystery Laird Jimenez, including the ones I haven't seen yet. But if you love mysteries, noir, crime, etc., you should really check them out. Each one has a different storyline involving a character played by Richard Dix who gets involved in some dark happening or another. Plot twists are given a very high premium, and the bulk of the series was directed by William Castle. Fun stuff.

The Fat Man (1951)
Speaking of William Castle, this is directed by him as well, and starring a character created for radio by none other than Dashiell Hammett (!!). I get the distinct sense that "created" in this case consisted of Hammett drunkenly saying the words "fat guy ... solves mysteries" in some semblance of coherence, but nevertheless his name is on the copyright. This one is pretty hard to find, I watched a very bad looking rip on or some such site, but it's worth seeking out if you're into obscure detective movies. Starring famous clown Emmett Kelly and Rock Hudson in an early role!

Darker Than Amber (1970)
One of the best personal discoveries I've made in the last year or so are the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. This is an adaptation of one of those novels by Robert "Enter the Dragon" Clouse, with a perfectly cast Rod Taylor as the philosophical salvage consultant McGee. Brutal action, chill hangout vibe, boats.

Blade (1973)
John Marley is Tommy Blade, a police detective who doesn't hate minorities or the young. I don't know if that would be considered more or less of a novelty today compared to in 1973, but I do know there's no way this would by anywhere near as entertaining as it is if it were made even just a decade later. Presumably related to Marley's casting, much of the dialogue has a seemingly improvised low-rent Cassavetes vibe, which manages to be effective rather than irritating. This also has one of the scariest bad guys ( a rich white guy, naturally) I've ever seen in a movie, played by Jon Cypher.

The Drowning Pool (1975)
When Brian sent me this assignment, the one movie I knew I had to include was The Drowning Pool. Unlike the other great detective movies of this period (Night Moves, The Long Goodbye, Chinatown, etc), this doesn't subvert the genre in any way, instead providing a perfect example of it. But the conventional nature of the story is offset by the gorgeous Gordon Willis cinematography, so even when it sounds like an episode of Columbo it LOOKS like The Godfather, which is a dynamic I will never tire of. Throw in Newman playing Lew Harper (this is a sequel to his earlier and more well-known movie Harper) and one of the best suspense set-pieces ever filmed and you have a lost cork-burner. See it!

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