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Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1980)
Filmmaker(s): John Davies, Tony Wharmby

This intriguing story is set in the 1930s at a country house, where two amateur sleuths, Bobby Jones and Lady Frankie Derwent, try to unravel the mystery behind a tale of murder, suspense and false identities. And the only clues the two have to go on are the puzzling last words of a dying man. Featuring characters created by Agatha Christie, Why Didn't They Ask Evans is a classic crime thriller sure to please murder-mystery fans.

The Boomerang Clue I make a habit out of examining film adaptations of classic mystery novels for clues. I’m looking for clues about why the narrative works. There is a reason Christie is the best selling writer in history, even now as print runs are...
Published January 19, 2024
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Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019)
Mystery...has met its match
Filmmaker(s): Katt Shea

Nancy Drew, a smart high schooler with a penchant for keen observation and deduction, stumbles upon the haunting of a local home. A bit of an outsider struggling to fit into her new surroundings, Nancy and her pals set out to solve the mystery, make new friends, and establish their place in the community

Embraced Balusters I’ve watched this version and the one with the same title from the thirties back to back. Originally it was in the service of my history of mysteries, but neither qualify. Only this one is worthy of comment, because of the apparent excellence...
Published January 18, 2024
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Black Magic (1944)
Chan stalks a fiendish murderer!
Filmmaker(s): Phil Rosen

Chinese detective Charlie Chan solves a murder linked to the occult. This movie had an alternative title: Meeting at Midnight.

Spooked The original intent of the Chan series, I suppose, was to introduce the “oriental” mind to the mystery genre. As with the equally strange notion of Belgian logic with Poirot, we would be charmed by novel synaptic paths. By the time of this film,...
Published January 17, 2024
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A Haunting in Venice (2023)
Death was only the beginning.
Filmmaker(s): Kenneth Branagh

Celebrated sleuth Hercule Poirot, now retired and living in self-imposed exile in Venice, reluctantly attends a Halloween séance at a decaying, haunted palazzo. When one of the guests is murdered, the detective is thrust into a sinister world of shadows and secrets.

The Influence of Inscrutability Agatha Christie based films are a sort of bellwether for me. I think the most important trend in our culture just now is how we play with awareness. The most obvious and experimental centre for that is long form film. The...
Published November 15, 2023
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Sherlock! (2010)
A new sleuth for the 21st century.
Filmmaker(s): Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat

A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London.

Logical Circularity This comment applies to the three, presumably the only three episodes of the BBC Sherlock! (The trend seems to be to modernise famed detectives and so denote with an exclamation point.) (After this comment was written, there would be more) I come to...
Published September 11, 2023
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Birth (2004)
Careful what you wish for.
Filmmaker(s): Jonathan Glazer

It took Anna 10 years to recover from the death of her husband, Sean, but now she's on the verge of marrying her boyfriend, Joseph, and finally moving on. However, on the night of her engagement party, a young boy named Sean turns up, saying he is her dead husband reincarnated. At first she ignores the child, but his knowledge of her former husband's life is uncanny, leading her to believe that he might be telling the truth.

Operatic There’s a scene in this that will be a feature of film school classes for a long time to come. Nicole is an uneven actress, only sometimes rising to the world class of Kate and Cate and the young Julianne. The smallest part of...
Published September 11, 2023
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The Big Sleep (1946)
The picture they were born for!
Filmmaker(s): Howard Hawks

Private Investigator Philip Marlowe is hired by wealthy General Sternwood regarding a matter involving his youngest daughter Carmen. Before the complex case is over, Marlowe sees murder, blackmail, deception, and what might be love.

Camera in the Head I’m an enthusiast of film, the kind of film that uses the uniquely cinematic qualities of the medium. From time to time, I see a non-cinematic film which I like. This is one such. By non-cinematic, I mean that the film...
Published August 12, 2023
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The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
The Most Horror-Dripping TALE EVER WRITTEN!
Filmmaker(s): Terence Fisher

When a nobleman is threatened by a family curse on his newly inherited estate, detective Sherlock Holmes is hired to investigate.

Mongrel Sherlock was an invention of the times, following the new idea of evolution. The notion of pure reason being able to perceive and comprehend everything in life was especially novel. This was contrasted to the bumbling inductive logic of doctors like Watson. Handling Holmes...
Published July 27, 2023
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Behind the Green Door (1972)
The Mitchell Brothers Present the all American Girl

Gloria is kidnapped and taken to a theater where she is told that she will have "the most exquisite moment of her life." She shares many sexual and intimate experiences on a stage in front of a small masked audience that grows increasingly aroused as the performance progresses.

Taxi Driver’s Eyes Wide No history of film can evade porn. Some of it contains some clever ideas and every once in a while it actually influenced something. That’s the case with this. Schrader has explicitly said that this influenced his “Taxi Driver” in the...
Published July 14, 2023
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Before Midnight (1933)
Lurking FINGERS of DEATH reached out of the dim and ghostly past!
Filmmaker(s): Lambert Hillyer

A detective tries to figure out who killed a man who predicted his own death.

The Written Mystery The early thirties was a time of great experimentation with the detective narrative, leading eventually to noir. This is one of those experiments, and a rather fine one. It has a framing device where an old cop is telling a young one...
Published June 30, 2023
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