Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Detective/Mysteries - George J G White ""

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - George J G White

George White writes a blog called 'A Teenager's Guide to Trash'. 
He can be found on twitter here: 
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The  Big Sleep (1978)
Michael Winner and ITV-ATV-ITC do Philip Marlowe goes to 1970s London or Robert Mitchum does the Sweeney. Mitchum looks out of place in Euston Films-land, as does Richard Boone, James bloody Stewart (whose corpse-like appearance here belies the fact he lived another 20 years), Candy Clark, while the sterling Brit cast includes Edward Fox, Ollie Reed, John Mills, Joan Collins, Colin Blakely, RIchard Todd, Harry Andrews, Dudley Sutton, Norman "JR Hartley" Lumsden and Pat Gorman.  It's an oddity. It feels like the pilot for a "Marlowe in the UK" TV series, with Mitchum being the next along the likes of Tony Curtis and Gene Berry of US actors imported by Lew Grade. The fact ITV co-produced the US-set but initially UK-made Powers Boothe Marlowe series doesn't have anything to do with this, bar a mild affiliation, both made by different ITV companies though. The mix of Hollywood glamour and mundane life (see John Mills' watching Miss World on Thames/LWT). 

Appointment with Death (1988)
Michael Winner and Cannon do Poirot in the Superman IV of the Agatha Christie world (Harry Alan Towers' 10 Little Indians are the Swamp Thing films). Ustinov is back (just a year before David Suchet's UK TV portrayal). Now the all-star cast is Lauren Bacall, Sir John Gielgud, David Soul, Hayley Mills, Carrie Fisher, Jenny Seagrove, then Winner's lover and Piper Laurie. Bacall and Gielgud had already been in Finney's Murder on the Orient Express, and this feels like a kind of Poundland Death on the Nile. The setting is moved to Jerusalem rather than the book's Jordan because of Golan-Globus' basis in Israel. Cheap, cheerful, slightly trashy but its not boring even though it may seem to be at certain points. 

Funny Bones (1995)
The slick glitz of Vegas contrasts with the tatty glamour of its UK equivalent, Blackpool in Peter Chelsom's Northern English/US culture-clash showbiz giallo. With Lee Evans, Oliver Reed, Leslie Caron, Oliver Platt, Jerry Lewis and Parrot-Face Davies in its one-time-only cast...

And Then There Were None (1974)
Harry Alan Towers' 1974 adaptation of the Christie jewel, here a UK-US-Iran-Italy-Spain-Germany-France-Liechtenstein co-production with Peter Collinson at the helm, the setting moved to a desert hotel, with Elke Sommer, Oliver Reed, Herbert Lom, Towers' wife Maria Rohm, Stephane Audran, Charles Aznavour, Gert Frobe, Alberto De Mendoza and Adolfo Celi all dubbed by Robert Rietty against Dickie Attenborough in post-10 Rillington Place mode, and the voice of Orson Welles. A giallo , essentially. 

Juggernaut (1974) and The Cassandra Crossing (1976)
The two sides of the British disaster movie. Both with Richard Harris. Apart from Omar Sharif and to a lesser extent, Shirley Knight and JR Pepper himself, Clifton James as a stereotypical Yank tourist, this has none of the glamour of the Poseidon Adventure, which was by a British director, Ronald Neame, while an American, Richard Lester took the opposite route. Its grounded in '70s Britain, an industrial nightmare of Southampton, where Anthony Hopkins' kids read Whizzer and Chips comic, where Roy Kinnear as the Entertainments Officer tries to keep everyone safe and well while Ian Holm investigates a bomb scare that Harris and David Hemmings are sent to foil. A great British cast, unlike Cassandra, the UK-Italian-German epitome of the co-production or Europudding which apart from Irish London resident Harris and Anglo-Italian Ray Lovelock, has no British actors. We do have Burt Lancaster, OJ Simpson as a priest, a couple played by Ava Gardner and Martin Sheen, Sophia Loren and Harris and Jonathan and Jennifer (Chamberlain not Hart, but you do get Lionel Stander as a character called Max, honestly, but he's a conductor), Lee Strasberg as a Concentration camp survivor forced back to his old hell-hole and Ann "Mrs. Harris" Turkel and Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue's Lovelock as hippie lovers among others. Turkel badly sings asong, though there's a great Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack and plenty other treats in this "plague on a train" film with a twist. 

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972)
US TVM with Stewart Granger as a silver-haired Holmes and Bernard Fox as a faux-Nigel Bruce Watson on the Universal backlot and Western sets doubling as Cornwall, against William Shatner's Stapleton. Cheesy, cheap and feeling almost like an attempt by Universal to recreate their Rathbone-Bruce films as a failed teleseries. FIlled with anachronisms such as chestnut salesmen, Watson in a 70s fishing hat, baking sun, hills peeking out of London streets and Anthony Zerbe's fascinating accent as Dr. Mortimer, while John Williams assures Sally Ann Howes they're father and daughter and Jane Merrow, fresh from Hammer's Hands of the Ripper looks bemused. Apparently, according to what Merrow told me, no one could keep a straight face when they saw the sets, including the papier-mache moor that is so  small, everyone is huddled together in the same spot.  Shatner's supposedly British character has a distinctly Canadian accent. 

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