Archive for the ‘Perry Mason’ Category

The Mammoth Book of Movie Detectives and Screen Crimes is indeed big, but not mammoth when compared to Otto Penzler’s Big Lizard books on pulp mysteries. Also it’s a fast reading book.

Let’s first talk MammothBookabout what this book isn’t, though, because there’s a little misrepresentation here. The back cover states “Here are original stories of crime and detection that were the inspiration behind some of the best-loved screen successes.” By this I thought these stories were actually the bases for TV and movie mysteries. In reality, these stories were written by authors who created TV and movie detectives, but the stories themselves were not necessarily the basis for the movie or series.

Having gotten that out of the way, The Mammoth Book of Movie Detectives and Screen Crimes is an worthwhile book, now that your expectations are set. Peter Haining, who has written much about pulp fiction of all genres knows what he’s doing.

RearWindowThe best story in the book was It Had to be Murder by Cornell Woolrich which was the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s Read Window. However, this story has no romantic plot to it; no Grace Kelly blond tending to the wheelchair bound James Stewart. The film basically followed the story and I kept picturing Raymond Burr as the would-be murderer.

The second best story which immediately follows Rear Window is RaymondBurrForbidden Fruit by Edgar Lustgarten and is a James M. Cain-esque story of a man and woman plotting her husband’s murder—think The Postman Always Rings Twice. It has the same darkness to it and a similar ending. Lustgarten introduced the British series, Scotland Yard, but this story was not a part of the series.

Authors included in the anthology count as a partial who’s who of mystery writers: Edgar Wallce, Eric Ambler, George Harmon Coxe, Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain), Erle Stanley Gardner, Georges Simenon and Ruth Rendell. MaigretHunter’s story was the basis for the movie the Blackboard Jungle which certainly is not a detective/mystery story and Rendell’s excellent story has no corresponding TV or movie.

The authors are credited with creating some of the great detective series or movies including Columbo, Little Caesar, Naked City, Perry Mason (although this was not one of the better stories), and Maigret. A lot of the series are British and the dates range from the 1920s to the 1990s. At the beginning of each story is a short bio of the author and an explanation of the series for which he/she is credited.

CornellWoolrichThe Mammoth Book of Movie Detectives and Screen Crimes is not your run of the mill mystery anthology. It contains stories and authors you may not have heard of and mentions series that you may be unfamiliar with. It’s a nice way to broaden your mystery horizons. I think the next mystery author I’m going to tackle is Cornell Woolrich. I’ve read some of his stories but not enough. So move over Hammett and Chandler, I’m going to dig up some Woorich.

I highly recommend this book.

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TouchOfEvilThe good news and the bad news on these movies? Bad news first. I’m sorry but Touch of Evil, as a movie, was a clunker. However….there were a bunch of good things about it. Firstly, a young and very pretty Janet Leigh. Then there’s Charlton Heston. The makeup on Orson Welles to make his character look as evil on the outside as he was on the inside. Dennis Weaver playing a deranged motel night manager. Cameo appearances by none other than Zsa Zsa Gabor and Marlene Dietrich (not one of my personal favorites, but a lot of people like her). And finally, Ray Collins, who’ll always be known to me as Lt. Tragg on the Perry Mason series.

The good news? The Third Man was the polar opposite of Touch of Evil.  A marvelous, suspenseful movie.ThirdMan Compare the two Orsons. What a difference. One disgusting. One so suave. And finally, Joseph Cotton. Would you think less of me if I said I had a thing for Joseph Cotton. I just like him, the way he looks, the way he acts, ThirdMan2the characters he plays. I just love his movies. The Magnificant Ambersons? What a great movie. But I digress. He and his female co-star, Alida Valli, had a chemistry.

There were no femme fatales, per se, in these movies. Remember, I got the names from the book Dani Noir, in which she envisioned femme fatales and noir movies. While both were definitely noir movies, if I had to pick one, I’d pick The Third Man.

Next on the list: Lady from Shanghai.



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