A Bishop from Australia comes to Perry to ask him to take a case of a woman wrongly accused of manslaughter 22 years before. The case would involve the wealthy Mr. Brownley and the fact that his alleged granddaughter may be an imposter. With that, the Bishop leaves and is clubbed in his hotel room. Soon after, he leaves on a boat and Perry meets the woman - Ida Gilbert. Perry goes to see Mr. Brownley, but gets nowhere. Later that night, Brownley is to meet Ida, but he is shot by a woman who drops Ida's gun. Ida is arrested for the murder of Mr. Brownley and Perry gets involved.
05 Feb The Case of the Stuttering Bishop (1937)
We had two great evolutionary paths in the 30s. One was an amazing diversity of invention to settle some basic narrative devices that have since served us well as the basic vocabulary of cinema. The other, parallel path was the pulp detective novel, a master of which was Gardner.
The traditional, Holmes form is that you are linked to the detective. You discover what he does. Christie followed this form, but it is difficult to render in film. Gardner may be the first case — since common — of the novel adopting cinematic form. His formula does seem friendly to film: we see events that Mason does not, often before he gets seriously engaged. These events give us a false impression of what happened, so we as viewers start out with a deficit.
Then we have the detection; Mason and company are detectives in act two. The third act is always a courtroom, which is why our detective has to be a lawyer. Courtroom conventions have their own evolution in film, and this instance is limited to what in Christie‘s stories has to be a contrived assembly of the suspects.
This format allows for more complicated mysteries than were usual in film. My own preference for 30‘s detection is Philo Vance because the formula was not so strict. But this is a good one in terms of allowing complexity and surprise. We have that here in this solid instance.
One of the decisions in defining the characters is how intimate to make the relationship between alpha male Mason and his pretty and competent secretary. Why this matters has to do, as Mason would say, with motive. We like the guy. He is smart, as smart as other detectives, but why he does what he does??
In some renderings of the Mason format, he just likes to win. He has his own Lestrade who he likes humiliating. Justice is incidental, and truth merely a tactic. He just like to strut.
In other renderings, he does what he does because he loves his team, his closest friend Drake and his lover Della. Both are profoundly loyal and true. He struts for her and we imagine passion after the obligatory Italian restaurant scene.
Here, a delicate balance between the two is maintained.
Posted in 2015
Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.