Too Many Suspects (1975 TVM)

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“In a few minutes, this woman will be dead. The question is: Who killed her? . . . Match wits with Ellery Queen and see if you can guess: Whodunnit?
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US / 98 minutes / color / Fairmont Foxcroft, Universal Dir: David Greene Pr & Scr: Richard Levinson, William Link Story: The Fourth Side of the Triangle (1965) by Avram Davidson writing as Ellery Queen Cine: Howard Schwartz Cast: Jim Hutton, David Wayne, Ray Milland, Kim Hunter, John Hillerman, John Larch, Tim O’Connor, Nancy Mehta (i.e., Nancy Kovack), Warren Berlinger, Monte Markham, Gail Strickland, Tom Reese, Vic Mohica, Dwan Smith, John Finnegan, Rosanna Huffman, James Lydon, Basil Hoffman, Frannie Michel.

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“B–b–b–b–b–but!” I can hear you cry. “Surely there can be few things less noirish than the pilot movie for an Ellery Queen TV series? Even Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies have more of the mean streets about them than Jim Hutton as Ellery Queen.”

You forget two things. First, that your humble scribe has had an affection for the tales of Ellery Queen that has lasted most of his reading life. Second, that, like it or lump it—and Raymond Chandler famously lumped it—without the strand of crime fiction of which Ellery Queen is a prime representative, the hardboiled strand might not have flourished. And without hardboiled crime fiction we might not have had film noir. Let’s remember, too, that there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of difference between an Ellery Queen movie of the early 1940s and The FALCON TAKES OVER (1942), based on Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely (1940), or, for that matter, DANGEROUS FEMALE (1931) and SATAN MET A LADY (1935), both based on Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1930).

Leaving those justifications aside, the year selected for this month in Rich Westwood’s Crimes of the Century feature at his Past Offences blog is 1975 and, although there were other possible candidate movies—such as Arthur Marks’s humdinger A Woman for All Men (1975)—this was the one that I fancied watching and writing about.

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It’s 1947 in NYC and, as the movie opens in the apartment of swish fashion designer Monica Gray (Mehta/Kovack), we hear a voice in the background:

“Good evening. This is our fourth week of bringing you world and local news through the exciting new medium of television.”

A shot rings out, and what we next see is Monica crawling agonizedly across the carpet to pull the plugs of her TV set and her electric clock from the wall. It is exactly 10.25pm.

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Monica Gray Nancy Kovack) has just moments to live.

The case goes to Inspector Richard Queen (Wayne) of the NYPD’s 3rd Division, and he’s intrigued enough by the supposed clue of the plugs being pulled from their sockets that he lures his son, mystery writer Ellery Queen (Hutton), into the investigation, despite Ellery’s state of panic about Continue reading

Tarnished (1950)

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The war between small-town hypocrisy and a reformed sinner’s integrity!
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US / 64 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: Harry Keller Scr: John K. Butler Story: Turn Home (1945) by Eleanor R. Mayo Cine: John MacBurnie Cast: Dorothy Patrick, Arthur Franz, Barbra Fuller, James Lydon, Harry Shannon, Don Beddoe, Byron Barr, Alex Gerry, Hal Price, Stephen Chase, Esther Somers, Paul E. Burns, Ethel Wales, Michael Vallon, Everett Glass.

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On their way home to the small town of Harbor, Maine, after a night out, the dangerous driving of Joe Pettigrew (Barr) terrifies his girlfriend, Lou Jellison (Patrick). Once they’ve lost a pursuing speed cop, she seizes the keys and insists on driving the rest of the way. During the changeover a hitchhiker, Bud Dolliver (Franz), begs a lift.

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Joe (Byron Barr) appalls Lou (Dorothy Patrick) with his crazy driving.

Bud has been absent from Harbor for seven years, seven years during which the locals have assumed he was in jail—after all, he’d been a wild one before his departure. Just about no one wants him back, a major exception being his old girlfriend Nina (Fuller). He encounters Nina at Barron’s Beer Parlor in town, and she immediately dumps her escort, Junior Bunker (Lydon), in favor of Bud; she makes it absolutely clear she’d like it if she and Bud could pick up where they left off, and Continue reading