Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Detective/Mysteries Kristina Dijan ""

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries Kristina Dijan

Kristina Dijan went from academia and studying deconstruction to running a construction company. A movie addict who loves all types and genres, she’s had articles published in various classic film magazines, blogs at Speakeasy and tweets @HQofK.
The Verdict (1946)
Sydney Greenstreet plays a legendary Scotland Yard superintendent who sends an innocent man to execution, gets booted into early retirement and replaced by his smug, inept backstabbing rival George Coulouris (whose mistake it was that led to that execution). Greenstreet works on his memoirs with friend Peter Lorre who’s doing the book’s illustrations, until  another murder makes that same old case hot again. Greenstreet gets another shot at it, this time with the added satisfaction of seeing Coulouris befuddled by this new locked room mystery and even better, having to ask for Greenstreet’s help. It all leads to a twist you will never see coming. Don Siegel made his directorial debut with this excellent mystery, based on a novel and in turn on a real life murder that gripped London in the late 1880’s.

Mix a little Wait Until Dark with some Rear Window, and you get this gorgeous looking Henry Hathaway directed story of a blind depressed playwright (Van Johnson) who overhears a possible kidnapping plot. He gets nothing from the authorities but disbelief and a pat on the head for his impressive imagination. The prospect of a puzzle and doing something meaningful brings him to life again, and with the help of his butler and ex-fiance Vera Miles, Johnson tries to solve and stop the crime. From tracking the scent of perfume, to perusing the who’s who, from a nearly deadly encounter in a demolished building to a struggle in the dark where hea has the advantage, the clues are well stacked and revealed, and the action is exciting.

Mystery Street (1950)
In this first procedural to feature forensics, Ricardo Montalban has a fantastic and groundbreaking role as the sharp, cynical lead detective, and heads a big cast that includes blackmailing parrot-owning landlady Elsa Lanchester, wise psychologist Bruce Bennett, as well as Marshall Thompson and “hostess” Jan Sterling. All Montalban has to start with is a skeleton, and with the help of that newfangled science he works backwards to figure out who the victim was, clear the man he’s charged wrongly and with tragic results, and then get on the trail of the better prospect, Montalban’s opposite number, the rich, married Boston WASP Edmon Ryan. Cinematographer John Alton paints in rich noir visuals and shots on location in Boston while director John Sturges creates deep and compelling character portraits, brought to life with outstanding work by Montalban.

Guilty Hands (1931)
Director Woody Van Dyke’s first mystery, in which Madge Evans is targeted for marriage by a slimy jerk and womanizer, which leads her father, famed prosecutor Lionel Barrymore, to murder him and set out to prove he can pull off that perfect crime he’s always talked about. Meanwhile, Kay Francis does a slow burn, determined to get to the truth for her own reasons. Van Dyke went on to direct the great Penthouse (a movie I almost included on this list) and The Thin Man. Guilty Hands is a guilty pleasure where all the mystery comes from watching Barrymore, whether he’s obsessing over details, timing, framing or lying his way through. He’s so intelligent and confident that you start to root for him, all the while watching for that one thing you just know is going to trip him up; that suspense carries you swiftly through to one shocker (a rather gimmicky one, but still) of an ending.

Seven Sinners AKA Doomed Cargo (1936)
AKA the best Thin Man movie that Alfred Hitchcock never made. Cool and breezy Edmund Lowe is at his best here as a detective on vacation on the Riviera when he gets sucked into investigating a villain named The Wrecker, who causes spectacular train crashes to cover his murders. Lowe’s partner is the lovely insurance agent Constance Cummings, and their chemistry is electric, with lots of loaded, teasing banter. Screenwriters Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat (The Lady Vanishes) knit together many clever moments like a bet with a French inspector, disappearing bodies, costume parties, card games, arms deals, a bunch of terroristic peaceniks, a shootout in a cinema, and more, all of which result a fast, fun, masterful and simply delightful package.

1 comment:

DorianTB said...

Great choices, Rupert! MYSTERY STREET and ...BAKER STREET (cool, two thrillers in one, as it were!)! I've always thought of MYSTERY STREET as a swell precursor of CSI! :-D