Wednesday, January 25, 2006


I've read an Ellery Queen story or two and I remember fairly well the Jim Hutton series of the 70's, but I had never seen an Ellery Queen movie until now. There was a short-lived series from Columbia with Ralph Bellamy, but the one I saw was an earlier film from B-studio Republic, with supporting player Donald Cook as the young detective who usually matches wits with his father--though in this film, it's Judge Macklin (Berton Churchill) who fills the older-man foil position. The film opens with Cook taking a couple of minutes of solve a crime for his dad before he and the judge leave for a vacation on the California coast at Spanish Cape (a resort area, I assume). They're staying in a guest house on the grounds and get roped into helping out at the nearby Godfrey mansion during a house party involving a bunch of unlikable gold-digging relatives who are out to crack a will they think is unfair to them. Friendly Uncle Dave (Huntley Gordon) is kidnapped while out for a moonlight stroll with his niece (Helen Twelvetrees). It seems that the thugs who snatched him thought he was actually George Baxter, a man who's been flirting with Twelvetrees (with her encouragement), even though she's engaged to Arnold Gray. After Cook and the judge arrive at the scene, Baxter is found dead, along with a letter indicating that he was cheating the family. Next to go is the greedy Mr. Munn who had been fighting with his wife. When someone suspects Mrs. Munn, the local sheriff (Harry Stubbs) says, "If every woman who fought with her husband killed him, America would be populated solely by Amazons." When Gray is found dead, suspicion falls on Twelevetrees. It takes one more death for Queen to dope out the identity of the killer; in retrospect, it's a predictable solution but I didn't figure it out. Twelvetrees is very good, though it took me a while to warm to her; Cook doesn't have much charisma but he's acceptable, and he handles the humorous banter with Twelvetrees fairly well. For a Republic film, the production values are not bad and the print I saw (from Encore Mystery) was in remarkably good shape. [TV]

No comments: