Tag Archives: detective stories

MADAME SARA (1971) RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes bestFrom 1971 to 1973 The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes was a British television series which dramatized non-Holmes mystery stories by Victorian and Edwardian authors. For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode click HERE   

Madame SaraEpisode: MADAME SARA (November 1st, 1971)

Detective: Dixon Druce, created by L.T. Meade (Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith) and Robert Eustace.

Villainess: Madame Sara, by the same creators. The first story featuring Dixon Druce and Madame Sara was published in 1902.

Madame Sara picReview: Years before the insidious Doctor Fu Manchu and his dogged adversary Sir Denis Nayland-Smith came this detective and the female criminal genius he clashed with. In the case of Dixon Druce and Madame Sara, there was always an air of attraction and sexual tension between them.

The pair’s duels of wits sprinkled with flirtation are enjoyable and, combined with the fact that a woman co-created the characters and co-wrote their six mysteries, I’m genuinely puzzled why they aren’t more well known and more widely dramatized.

Madame Sara was the story which introduced Dixon Druce (John Fraser), investigative manager for the Werner’s Solvency Inquiry Agency. That firm can be hired by potential investors to probe the financial and legal bona fides of domestic or international businesses.  

Dixon DruceAs the episode opens, Druce is in his laboratory engaging in a game of forensic one-upmanship with his Scotland Yard friend Inspector Vandeleur (George Murcell). Their verbal fencing over poisons is interrupted by Dixon’s old school friend Jack Selby (William Corderoy).

Selby has recently married the well-to-do and beautiful Beatrice Dallas (Jasmina Hilton), whom he met while at a government post in Brazil. Jack is seeking Druce’s help in unravelling certain complications left over from the will of his wife’s late parents.

Delgado as SilvaTheir fortune of 2 million Pounds will be left to whichever of their children is ultimately left alive among Beatrice, her unmarried sister Edith (Caroline John of Doctor Who fame) and their elusive, enigmatic half-brother Henry Joachim Silva (THE Roger Delgado for another Doctor Who connection).    Continue reading

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BERNARD SUTTON (1971): RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES – FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes otherThe Rivals of Sherlock Holmes was a 1971-1973 television series which dramatized contemporary non-Holmes detective stories from the Victorian and Edwardian Eras in England. For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode click HERE 

Bernard SuttonEpisode: THE RIPENING RUBIES (December 2nd, 1971)

Detective: Bernard Sutton, Jeweler to the Royal Court, created by Max Pemberton. The first Bernard Sutton story was published in 1894.

Review: Max Pemberton’s series of 10 Bernard Sutton mysteries make for a nice break from non-stop murder investigations. This dapper, distinguished “Court Jeweler who solves mysteries” always finds himself getting to the bottom of spectacular jewel heists. People are sometimes killed off during his investigation, but those killings are always incidental to Sutton’s solving of seemingly impossible robberies.

Sutton 2Bernard (Robert Lang) is capably assisted by Abel, the young clerk at his high-end jewelry shoppe. Abel is a reformed criminal whose old underworld contacts prove valuable in Sutton’s investigations.

In The Ripening Rubies the sleuthing jeweler easily nails a crook trying to sell a ruby necklace stolen from Lady Faber (Lally Bowers). After restoring the priceless item to the good Lady, Bernard winds up recruited by her to be her “watchdog” at a party she’s throwing that evening. Continue reading

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LADY MOLLY (1971) RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes otherThe Rivals of Sherlock Holmes lasted for 2 seasons of 13 episodes each from 1971-1973. The series dramatized non-Holmes stories of detectives solving mysteries in Victorian and Edwardian England written by contemporary authors. For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode click HERE

lady Molly againEpisode: THE WOMAN IN THE BIG HAT (November 15th, 1971)

Detective: Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, created by Baroness Orczy (The Scarlet Pimpernel). The first Lady Molly story was published in 1910.

Review: The fictional Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk was depicted working as a detective for Scotland Yard a full decade before women did so in real life. The period details in her series of mysteries often include references to the Women’s Suffrage Movement, but never to the point where it interferes with the storytelling.

The Woman in the Big Hat starts off with Lady Molly, played magnificently by Elvi Hale, shopping for a new hat. Her sharply-honed powers of observation allow her to thwart an attempted robbery by a few larcenous ladies posing as customers at the high-class shop.

Lady Molly and MaryRest assured this will tie back into the main story, but for now it’s back to Scotland Yard for Lady Molly and Mary Granard (Ann Beach, right), her Watson-style sidekick/ biographer. Elsewhere in London, a distinguished gentleman drops dead from poison at a cafe shortly after his female companion leaves the table.

With the only description of the presumed murderess being that she wore “a big hat,” Inspector Saunders (Peter To The Manor Born Bowles) finds that his investigation has hit a dead end. Reluctantly, he enlists the help of our heroine. Continue reading

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THE THIN MAN (1934): BOOK REVIEW

Thin ManTHE THIN MAN (1934) – Mystery writer Dashiell Hammett’s final novel, The Thin Man, introduced former private detective Nick Charles and his wealthy socialite wife Nora. After marrying Nora, Nick left detective work in order to manage her business interests.

When a former client of Nick’s – eccentric inventor and title character Clyde Wynant – is suspected of murdering his female assistant/ mistress Julia Wolf, Nick is told that Clyde wants him to prove his innocence. Though retired, Nick is unwillingly drawn deeper into the investigation by circumstances beyond his control.   

The Thin Man is set in New York City from Christmas Day of 1932 through the following few days, making it ideal Christmas into New Year’s reading material. Unlike Hammett’s Sam Spade and Continental Op characters, Nick and Nora Charles live it up among the wealthy and famous, traveling at will, dining at the best restaurants and gleefully downing as much booze as they can despite Prohibition still being in effect.

The Charles’ schnauzer Asta is along for the ride but she doesn’t become cloyingly cutesy like the dog would sometimes do in the Thin Man movie series.

The “lovable lushes” aspect of Nick and Nora’s characters is a huge part of their charm, along with their sparkling, witty banter. Readers get to feel as brilliant and sexy as the two leads as they fend off unwanted advances, sling snappy dialogue and interact with shady criminal types plus assorted New York entertainers and Old Money families. Continue reading

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HAMMETT (1982)

HammettHAMMETT (1982) – Directed by Wim Wenders and produced by Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios, Hammett is a criminally neglected valentine to Hard-Boiled Detective Stories and Film Noir. The flick is based on the novel by Joe Gores. 

The stories about the behind the scenes chaos and conflicts surrounding the production of this movie are legion. Pre-production work began in 1975 and by the time it was released in 1982 multiple cast and story changes had taken place and Coppola himself re-shot more than a third of the film.

In the way that Time After Time presented a whimsical “what if” adventure featuring H.G. Wells having a real time machine, Hammett serves up iconic detective novelist Dashiell Hammett getting caught up in solving a real-life mystery.

The timing is excellent, with the story being set in the late 1920s, after Hammett was no longer working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency but before he became a successful author. The tale begins with our hero – played by Frederic Forrest – typing out one of his penny-a-word Pulp stories for Black Mask Magazine, which was to detective fiction what Weird Tales was to horror and sci-fi.

hammett 2Booze and coughing fits figure prominently in the movie, as you would expect given a protagonist who was an alcoholic with tuberculosis. For the sake of convenience the story that Hammett just finished before blacking out was one featuring his character the Continental Op (as in an operative for the fictional Continental Detective Agency).  

Hammett awakens to find his most recent work being read by Jimmy Ryan (Peter Boyle), his old mentor from his Pinkerton days. Ryan jokes with “Sam” (Samuel Dashiell Hammett was his full name if you’re new to all things Hammett) that the “man with no name” in the story seems to be based on him (Ryan) and the way he operates.

Eventually Jimmy gets to the point: he saved Hammett’s life when our hero was new at detective work, and Ryan is finally calling in the debt that Sam owes him for that. The former colleague thus lures Hammett back into detective work for one last case. Continue reading

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