Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Patricia Nolan-Hall ""

Friday, May 2, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Patricia Nolan-Hall

Since 2008 Toronto-based Patricia Nolan-Hall as "Caftan Woman" writes a blog dedicated to the memory and exploration of classic films and the people who made them.  Trained in the dramatic arts and music, she also speaks to groups on behalf of autism awareness.

Her blog can be found here:

Twitter @CaftanWoman
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CHARLIE CHAN IN PANAMA (1940)
The Honolulu beat alone could never contain the venerable Lt. Chan.  In one of his best international cases an elusive enemy agent known as Reiner has been traced to the canal zone.  Sidney Toler as Chan goes undercover, tasked with solving the murder of a confederate and protecting US interests in the region.  The diverse cast of plausible red herrings include Lionel Atwill as Britisher Clive Compton, Mary Nash as American tourist Miss Finch, Lionel Royce as mysterious Dr. Grosser, Frank Puglia as enigmatic Achmed Halide and Jack LaRue as bon vivant nightclub owner Manola.  The script provides a genuine and intriguing mystery with a satisfactory conclusion.  The ever-ebullient Sen Yung provides his always excellent comic support as Jimmy Chan.  It's a dandy!

DICK TRACY'S DILEMMA (1947)
The Citizen Kane of Dick Tracy flicks.  In the role he was born to play, Ralph Byrd is the intrepid cop stepping from the comic pages into a tale of high stakes rackets and double dealers.  Vivid characterizations from Jack Lambert as "The Claw", Ian Keith as "Vitamin Flintheart" and Jimmy Conlin as "Sightless", a pitiable beggar, are part of the memorable qualities of this movie.  Director John Rawlins keeps the pace brisk and provides memorable set pieces, such as one gut-wrenching murder scene.  The cinematography by Frank Redman, who would go on to film over 100 episodes of TVs Perry Mason, baths the story in classic noir shadows.

FOLLOW ME QUIETLY (1949)
The versatile Richard Fleischer directed this interesting and entertaining police procedural centered on the search for a mad serial killer.  Feisty, well-drawn characters are a highlight of the 60 minute running time.  William Lundigan is a police lieutenant obsessed with a seemingly unbreakable case.  Dorothy Patrick is a lady journalist looking for a career breaking story, who finds more than she bargained for.  Fine touches include the profiling of the suspect, the climactic chase and the interesting character actors populating the story including Nestor Paiva, Jeff Corey, Douglas Spencer and Edwin Max.  The film lives long in the memory.

THE GLASS KEY (1935)
The first film version of Dashiell Hammett's novel of murder and political intrigue as directed by Frank Tuttle has a raw, in-your-face feel.  George Raft goes the limit and then some when "boss" Edward Arnold's involvement with a wealthy senator and his family brings nothing but trouble.  It's a tangled murder mystery with brutal touches.  A fine companion to the 1942 remake directed by Stuart Heisler where the raw energy is given a more glossy finish.  Fans of They Drive by Night will enjoy this early look at Raft with future co-star Ann Sheridan in a small role.

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948)
"A flower crushed under foot.  A sudden wind.  A shattered vase."  The lives of a reclusive psychic and a young heiress are inextricably bound together in a murder plot and inescapable fate.  Befitting a Cornell Woolrich story, atmosphere and a pervasive sense of dread are foremost.  Lovely Gail Russell makes us care for our heroine's predicament.  Edward G. Robinson is outstanding (when is he not?) as a man cursed by his gift.  Directed by John Farrow with cinematography from John Seitz of Sunset Blvd. and Double Indemnity fame.  Victor Young provided the evocative score. 

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