Tag Archives: mysteries

CHARLES DALLAS: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

rivals of sherlockFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the very first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE

Charles DallasEpisode: THE MISSING Q.Cs. (April 9th, 1973)

Detective: Charles Dallas, created by John Oxenham (pen name of William Arthur Dunkerley). The first Charles Dallas story was published in 1898 in Harmsworth London Magazine.

Comment: John Oxenham’s crime novels and short stories deserve to be rediscovered and made available to a much wider audience. A Mystery of the Underground, his 1897 detective story about a serial killer committing seemingly impossible Phantom of the Opera-style murders on the London Underground was his best-known crime thriller. However, his mystery-solving lawyer Charles Dallas should also be remembered since he was basically a Victorian Age forerunner of Rumpole of the Bailey.

As an example of the impact of Oxenham’s writing consider this – it’s a historical footnote that while his subway killer tale was being serialized, Tuesday night use of the London Underground plummeted to record lows because the fictional murderer only struck on Tuesday evenings. You can look it up for yourself.

Synopsis: Handsome young lawyer Charles Dallas (Robin Ellis) is a Junior Defense Barrister for Queen’s Counsel (Q.C.) defense attorney Sir Revel Revell (seriously), played by John Barron. Like the Victorian Age’s fictional master thief A.J. Raffles, he’s also a top-notch Cricket player whose athletic accomplishments are often in the newspapers.

Milly Revell and Charles DallasCharles has been dating Sir Revel’s daughter Milly (Celia Bannerman), a practicing nurse who keeps pressuring her beau to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Between his law career, his Cricket games and his sleuthing he just can’t seem to find the right moment for it, which causes periodic tensions between the two lovebirds. Continue reading

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CHIEF PURSER HORROCKS: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE 

Chief Purser HorrocksEpisode: THE LOOTING OF THE SPECIE ROOM (April 16th, 1973)

Detective: Chief Purser Eli Horrocks, created by C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne. The first Mr Horrocks story was published in the year 1900.

Comment: He’s a Chief Purser who solves mysteries! Instead of doing the thousandth screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, how about someone bringing to life Hyne’s seafaring sleuth Mr Horrocks? The Looting of the Specie Room has a lot of the “snooty British upper class prigs caught up in a crime” appeal that Christie’s later mysteries had.

Rounding up an all-star cast and filming this first-rate mystery as it unfolds amid cushy 1900 trans-Atlantic ship travel might make for a surprise hit. Compared to other Chief Purser Horrocks mysteries like The Derelict THIS little honey would probably work best as a movie. The detective work would just be part of the charm, with the period detail providing the rest.  

Horrocks, the Inspector and the CaptainSynopsis: The RMS Oceanic is hoping to pull off a double-coup – hauling a record-setting TWO HUNDRED FIFTY-THOUSAND dollars in gold bullion (in 1900 money) from New York City to Southampton AND setting a new speed record for a trans-Atlantic voyage. Lord Altington, the owner of the shipping line, is aboard to oversee this venture and keep the pressure on the crewmembers.

Also aboard for this bit of hoped-for history are assorted sleazy reporters and a mix of Upper Class Twits whose pomposity and snobbery rival Lord Altington’s. When half the gold disappears on the way to Great Britain, the spectacular theft could mean the end for Chief Purser Horrocks (Ronald Fraser), whose position makes him ultimately responsible for all valuables on board.

With Lord Altington looking for a scapegoat, with the crew pointing fingers at each other, with Inspector Trent bungling the investigation and with an entire shipload of suspects ready to scatter to the winds upon arrival in Southampton, Horrocks takes it upon himself to play detective in order to save his own skin. Continue reading

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EIGIL HOLST: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

rivals of sherlockFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE   

HolstEpisode: THE SENSIBLE ACTION OF LIEUTENANT HOLST (March 4th, 1973)

Detective: Eigil Holst, created by Danish author Palle Rosenkrantz. The first Holst mystery was published in 1903.

Comment: Palle Rosenkrantz is considered the Grandfather of Danish Crime Authors and Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz Prize is the equivalent of America’s Poe Award. His 1903 novel The Forest Lake Mystery, which introduced his police detective Eigil Holst, is considered the first Danish crime novel.

Synopsis: In Copenhagen, harried and put-upon Detective Lieutenant Eigil Holst gets two fresh cases added to his pile – a missing persons case involving the wife of a local merchant, and a Russian Countess who claims her brother-in-law has pursued her with the intention of murdering her.

Holst and DimitriJohn Thaw portrays Lieutenant Holst but neither boozes like Inspector Morse nor manhandles suspects like he did in his Sweeney days. Holst displays a casual savviness and a street-smart air, especially when dealing with a slippery hotel front desk employee. “Professional” is the defining adjective for Thaw’s Holst. 

In any event this particular case isn’t a “whodunnit” but a “who’s telling the truth” mystery. Continue reading

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EUGENE VALMONT: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

rivals of sherlockFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE   

ValmontEpisode: THE ABSENT MINDED COTERIE (February 26th, 1973)

Detective: Eugene Valmont, created by Robert Barr. The first Eugene Valmont story was published in 1904.

Synopsis: In this Second Season episode, Inspector Hale (Barry Linehan) of Scotland Yard has reached a dead-end in his current investigation and has sought out the aid of the French-born private investigator Eugene Valmont, who operates out of London. Continue reading

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INSPECTOR LIPINZKI (1973): RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes otherFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE   

Five Hundred CaratsEpisode: FIVE HUNDRED CARATS (February 5th, 1973)

Detective: Inspector Leo Lipinzki of Kimberley, South Africa, a figure created by George Griffith. The first Inspector Lipinzki story was published in 1893.

Synopsis: We are now in the second and final season of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. In addition to his many “ancient” science fiction stories – reviewed previously here at Balladeer’s Blog – George Griffith also wrote the eight Inspector Lipinzki stories, which were later collected in the book Knaves of Diamonds in 1899.

Inspector Lipinzki leftFor the first time in this series we have a story set outside Great Britain, which I found to be a welcome change of pace. Leo Lipinzki (Barry Keegan) works as a Detective Inspector for the Cape Police, but technically the already wealthy and powerful De Beers Diamond Corporation is who he really answers to.

Virtually all the murders, thefts and other crimes that Lipinzki investigates stem from IDB – Illicit Diamond Buying – amid the busy diamond mines and other establishments of South Africa. (And if you read the Inspector Lipinzki stories you’ll see that the acronym “IDB” is used ad nauseum.)

The episode Five Hundred Carats opens up with a murder that we eventually learn ties into the brilliant, seemingly impossible theft of the Great De Beers Diamond. Though in the original story George Griffith presented it as if the Inspector himself was relating the case to him, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes substitutes the fictional “Mr Cornelius” (Alan Tilvern), an American diamond buyer, for Griffith. 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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RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1971-1973) FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes bestTHE RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1971-1973) – The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes was not just a collection of stories by mystery writers who were contemporaries of Arthur Conan Doyle but also a television series which adapted such mysteries. Just as Holmes’ tales were set during the Victorian and Edwardian Eras so, too, were the stories of these detectives. The series lasted two seasons of 13 episodes each and presented the best non-Holmes London-by-Gaslight Detectives. 

Doctor ThorndykeEpisode One: A MESSAGE FROM THE DEEP SEA

Detective: Doctor John Evelyn Thorndyke, created by R Austin Freeman. The first Thorndyke story was published in 1907.

Review: In my opinion this is the best episode of Season One. Thorndyke, like Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, was miles ahead of the contemporary police in terms of Crime Scene Investigation. In both the Holmes AND Thorndyke mysteries there is a quasi-science fiction feel as those great fictional detectives use scientific methods disdained at the time but which are now commonplace in the solving of crimes.     

Thorndyke and JervisThe episode introduces us to Dr John Evelyn Thorndyke (John Neville), a forensic physician/ Police Surgeon of the era, as he is teaching a classroom of students. (Kind of a Quincy opening feel.) He is assisted by Dr Jervis (James Cossins), Thorndyke’s version of Dr Watson.

A former student of Thorndyke’s shows up requesting his former teacher’s help in his first big murder case as an Assistant Police Surgeon. Our star and his man Jervis accompany their former student to a brothel on Harrow Street, where a prostitute has been murdered in her bed by having her throat slashed. 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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