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Discussion in 'Movies' started by Mysto, Apr 10, 2018.
Thanks, Jeff. Appreciate the positive vibes.
Looks like the storm is really bad, Matt. Hope everything's OK there with you and yours.
We really lucked out with this one. It's basically a tropical storm now with rain and wind but nothing like what was being predicted three or four days ago, and my area is just on the edge of being affected by it. Lucky, lucky, lucky.
Once I get the review material I'm working on finished (hopefully) today, I want to dive into those Perry Mason films.
Happy to hear all is well. I hope the storm moves with little more damage. Good riddance.
I was going to crack open the Perry Mason movies tonight, but I remembered that I still had two films in the Philo Vance set to watch, so I watched The Garden Murder Case tonight. I liked Edmund Lowe more this time around than before, and the supporting cast had some MGM stalwarts including Virginia Bruce and Nat Pendleton. I found the mystery one of the easiest to solve of all the Vance films, and since it only ran an hour, it didn't wear out its welcome.
Sherlock Holmes – (Wontner -The Other Sherlock Series)
The Fatal Hour/Sleeping Cardinal
Sherlock Holmes and the Missing Rembrandt – (Lost Film)
The Sign of Four
The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes
Silver Blaze/Murder at the Baskervilles
Basil Rathbone’s was not the first Sherlock Holmes series. Before Basil took the reigns Arthur Wontner was THE definitive Sherlock for many years. In fact, even later, many considered his Sherlock far superior to the “abominations” of the Rathbone re-imagined modern day versions. Wontner played the role in a quiet straight forward way without the flamboyance of Basil. The stories either came from the Conan Doyle stories or at least were in the spirit,style, and period of those stories. Wontner even looked like the illustrations of Sherlock from the original Conan Doyle stories. Five films from two different studios were made but one is now officially a lost film. Ian Fleming (no the actor not the writer) plays Watson in all but The Sign of Four where Ian Hunter took the lead and falls for the lady in distress Mary Morstan played by Isla Bevan.
Ian Hunter & Isla Bevan
We generally describe most B films as breezy or peppy. They generally are short fast paced offerings. But these Sherlock films debuted at the very beginning of sound and the early films show it. Pacing was slower on many films of the period and early British films even more so. In addition, these films were made on a very low budget and it is apparent in many of the sets. Wontner was 56 when he started the series and by the last film he was really showing his age. (Kind of like Roger Moore in his last Bond).
Although this series is early sound, the honor of first Sherlock Holmes talkie goes to The Return of Sherlock Holmes 1929 starring Clive Brook. That one was so early it was also shot in a silent version for theaters not equipped to handle sound.
I grieve for every lost film but perhaps it’s not so bad that the second Wontner film is missing. Here is a snippet from a review in Harrison’s Reports:
“The Adventure of the Missing Rembrandt” (First Division; no rel. date set; running time, 74 mm.) This is one of the Sherlock Holmes series, but is not as exciting as its predecessors.” He goes on to say “The chief fault with the picture is that there is too much talk and not quite enough action.” The first film is slow so this one must have been a snail.
He did like The Fatal Hour though as his review states:
“This is a good detective mystery drama. Although there is no love interest it holds the attention of the spectator and keeps one in suspense, as all the thrills are provided by the uncanny way Sherlock Holmes has of unraveling a mystery.”
So what do I think? I enjoy these. I’m a sucker for Sherlock Holmes (as we’ve already stated, Rathbone will always be my favorite but) if you pack a little patience I think the Wontner films still offer entertainment and a refreshingly different Holmes interpretation. Sherlock fans will have to see these but for B mystery lovers that need action and a faster pace, you may want to give these a pass.
It appears that all of these are now in public domain. There are several for sale on Amazon in various degrees of quality. You can find these on youtube as well.
I'm going to be away next week - so no more summaries until next week end.
I have seen one or two of these and didn't much care for them (but my preference for Basil Rathbone is longstanding), but it's been a long time, and I need to check them out again.
I haven't seen any of the Wontner movies, but he has a great face for Sherlock Holmes.
Have a good time, Marv, whatever you get up to.
I finished up the Philo Vance set today with Calling Philo Vance. James Stephenson was very bland as Philo, and the film was merely a remake of The Kennel Murder Case with good but less effective actors in the other roles. Very unhappy that the last film in the set was a remake of another film in the set but less well done!
A few pages back, Marv did a fine overview of the Falcon series--none of which I had ever seen until TCM recently coughed up RKO's incongruously titled "The Gay Falcon" (1941), starring George Sanders. I was familiar with Mr. Sanders in The Saint, which now seems to me to be all of about a block and a half away away from his Falcon character, Gay Laurence. The algebra of lineage of the series has already been amply explained by Marv, so I am only speaking to this one episode.
The story begins in Gay Laurence's office, where he operates as a "broker" of some vague sort, along with his associate Jonathon Locke (Alan Jenkins) who goes by the moniker of "Goldie". Get it? Goldie Locke. Har har. Gay seems to keep active by staring out the window and sipping a noxious glass of spinach juice. Goldie's main employment requirement consists of continuously repeating "Okay, boss" to whatever Gay says. We also meet the Falcon's sharp-tongued fiancee, Elinor (Nina Vale), wearing a hat that looks as if a florist had divested his entire inventory on her head.
Alan Jenkins, Nina Vale, Wendy Barrie, George Sanders
The Falcon is invited to a fancy-dancy socialite party by Maxine Wood (Gladys Cooper) to ostensibly keep a sharp eye out for a spate of jewel robberies that have been occurring at these soirees. I've always been fascinated by Hollywood's film portrayal of New York apartments from this time period. Having grown up watching TV's Honeymooners--who subsist in what appears to be a 300 square foot space in the city, it seems unfair that the rest of New Yorkers lived in hotel lobby-sized rooms. Perfect size for a socialite party consisting of an entire orchestra, bar, waiters and about 100 happily waltzing couples completely oblivious to the painfully squeezed existence of Ralph and Alice Kramden a few blocks away.
Gay meets highly available Helen Reed (Wendy Barrie), Maxine's secretary, at the party and thus sets up an enduring squabble between her and his date Elinor. While dancing with a matronly dowager, a diamond ring is slipped into the Falcon's pocket. This simple act leads to the crux of the entire story line of hard-up socialites foisting off jewelry for insurance cash and payments from the jewel-thieving ring.
Blunt-edged logic does not have a huge role in this film. The mob appears to be headed up by Manuel Retana (Turhan Bey) sporting a hair style that has the uncomfortable sheen of slippery glass. A couple murders ensue in pursuit of the diamond, falsely entangling Goldie, the Falcon, Elinor and Helen by a police captain whose clarity of the situation is equal to that of a marsh fog.
Even with a somewhat surprise ending, this is not an intricate scratch-your-head mystery. I don't believe it was ever intended to be. But I began to get slightly annoyed at George Sander's continuous droll drawl that never seems to modulate itself above his sense of constant boredom. However--for a dull Sunday--and a reason to avoid mowing the yard, you can't beat movies like this to put the couch in potato.
NOTE: Hans Conried has a teeny uncredited part as a fussy police sketch artist. He easily steals the entire scene.
Having been born in Hong Kong, Wendy Barrie was named after her godfather Sir James Barrie's "Wendy" character from his book Peter Pan.
In addition to her motion‐picture work, Miss Barrie became even more of a household figure in the early television era. She was most familiar, perhaps, as the woman who did the Revlon commercials for “The $64,000 Question.” She was among the first “name” personalities to appear in television ads.
Wendy was famous for throwing elaborate luncheons for her friends and family. Her specialty was poaching eggs in cream with a dash of sherry.
Sexton Blake and the Bearded Doctor
Sexton Blake and the Mademoiselle
Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror
Meet Sexton Blake
The Echo Murders
Although not that well known here in the U.S., Sexton Blake was a behemoth in the U.K. The character first saw light in 1893 and spawned over 4000 stories by over 200 authors. Stage plays, several two reel silent films, many radio broadcasts and a TV series. But in this thread we’re all about the five film mystery movie series.
The first three starred David Farrar with his faithful companion Tinker played by Tony Sympson. I have been unable to locate the first two but I have watched Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror. This has the delicious feel of a Saturday afternoon serial but with a British flavor. Secret societies dressed in black garb with hoods and snake images on their chests. Secret panels, and a spy television thingie, peep holes in the walls (and in the plot), trap doors – Oh My! He is a British private detective with a sidekick companion an active housekeeper and he lives on Baker Street (can you say Sherlock Rip-Off?). Ted Slaughter plays a wonderful villain and lovely Greta Gynt the French detective and romantic interest. This is a crime thriller as we know who the bad guys are early in the film. Moves in and out from action to a lot of talk (sometimes if feels like we’re watching a radio play) but overall moves along. Yes – it’s very camp.
Charles Oliver and the "over the top" Tod Slaughter as the master mind
The first batch ended in 1938 and Sexton would not appear again until 1945 when David Farrar took up the role. In an odd coincidence David had played the character Granite Grant who gets hurt in Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror and calls in Sexton Blake.
In this second series Sexton Blake is saving Briton from the Nazi’s. He seems almost more a spy than an amatuer detective and has a better relationship with the police. In fact in some cases he is telling the police what to do. There are several dark scenes that are just that - DARK. In my prints they become radio plays. Still the same feel to these - kind of Sherlock Holmes meets Terry and the Pirates.
If you enjoy the old 1930’s serials you probably will enjoy Sexton Blake otherwise stay with the Sherlock(s) you love.
For you silent film lovers - here is Sexton Blake from the wonderful Huntley Archives
The last 3 films on the list are on youtube and are around on DVD’s in various quality. Hooded Terror and Echo Murders can be downloaded from Archive.org.
I had never heard of this series and am so glad you have brought it to our attention. Thanks!
Welcome back, Marv. Nothing but cricket noises in this room when you're absent. I tried to take up some of the slack, but I can't seem to carry your water in here.
Thanks - I don't know if I can carry water but I have been known to pass it.
Enjoyed your review very much. Thanks for keeping it alive.
Gordon Harker - Alastair Sim
Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday
Inspector Hornleigh Goes To It
From Harrison’s Reviews
"Inspector Hornleigh" with Gordon Harker and Alastair Sim (20//; Century-tax, April 21 ; time, 75 min.) This British-made picture can be recommended only for the most ardent followers of murder mystery melodramas, since the murderers identity is well concealed until the end ; otherwise, it has little appeal for the average American audience, for one thing, the players neither are known here nor do they give outstanding performances. Futhermore, their speech is at times difficult to understand. Another thing against it is the fact that the story is developed for the most part by dialogue instead of by action.”
I almost didn’t post the Harrison Review but I figured all my friends from across the pond would be laughing their asses off like I did. All I can answer is “Well said Mr. Harrison – how very, very colonial”. (In all fairness he wrote this in 1939 and the world was a different place). Well Mr. Harrison may have had a problem with these but I disagree and find them charming.
It is true that for these films an appreciation of British terminology, accents, culture, and humor is helpful and the ability to cut through Alistair Sim’s Scot brogue is a requirement but that’s part of the fun.
Inspector Hornleigh started as a BBC radio series in the 1930’s. It was a sort of Ellery Queen style as listeners were invited to match wits with the Inspector to see if they could discern the clues explained at the end of the program. Just like in the U.S. radio success lead to the movies. The Inspector made it to the big screen in 1938 with Gordon Harker at the helm and his dimwitted assistant Sergeant Bingham played by Alistair Sim (from Scotland instead of Brooklyn like all the Hollywood mystery series).
The radio series were offered as straight up mysteries but the movies have a large dose of comedy that is usually enjoyable although Alistair’s character occasionally gets downright annoying. Still the movies contain their share of “who dunnit”. These are real mysteries with lots of murders, suspects, and red herrings. Most of the clues are in play so we can try to discover the culprit. And this is one of the rare series where the police are the heroes. Like many of the lovely old English mysteries, expect a little more dialog and a little less action but each story still easily managed to hold my interest.
This series was very popular in the U.K. and I’m sure would have continued but Harker wanted to leave the role for other things. They all have ratings of 7+ on IMDB and I think are worth it for fans of the genre and/or lovers of British cinema.
All are available for sale on DVD but mine are older from different sources so I can't speak to the quality.
All three movies are on youtube
Inspector Hornleigh Goes To It is available for download on archive.org
Inspector Hornleigh and Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday are available for download on free-classic-movies.com
Very interested in these - thanks for the info, as always, Marv!
Another typhoon heading straight for downtown Osaka later today...time to batten down the hatches!
Stay safe - remember we ain't afraid of no Chinese Spittoon.
Be safe! Crossing my fingers for you!