Friday, November 29, 2019

Crime Thrillers on DVD (Reviews)

Two new DVD releases are now available commercially that may have fallen below the radar and should be brought to the attention of film buffs. 

ClassicFlix just released all five Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) mysteries featuring Michael Shayne. Lloyd Nolan starred as private detective Michael Shayne in seven features made at 20th Century Fox in the early 1940s. The first four were released in a box set, two additional released as singles. (Sadly, with the Disney purchase of the Fox library, that seventh Michael Shayne film may only be available through private collectors.) After the studio dropped the license, PRC brough Brett Halliday's ace crime-solver over to "Poverty Row" in 1946 for a series of five fun, action-packed whodunits starring Hugh Beaumont as the famed fictional detective. Yes, the same Leave it to Beaver Hugh Beaumont. 

While these films are not up to the polish of the Lloyd Nolan entries, the low-budget feel provides shades of film noir. You are best to watch the films in chronological order since Cheryl Walker plays the role of loyal and longing Phyllis Hamilton, later replaced with Trudy Marshall. Paul Bryar plays the reporter and sidekick Tim Rourke for three movies. Whether the mystery takes place at the Santa Rosita Race track, San Francisco or Los Angeles, or whether Chief Detective Pete Rafferty attempts to implicate the private eye in the crime, these five classics are finally available from studio masters in top-notch quality. 

Film Chest released an obscure television crime program titled Deadline, which was lost and forgotten in a garage in New Jersey for over 50 years. Televised from 1951 to 1961, the half-hour television program dramatized stories drawn from actual newspaper headlines of the 1950s, reminding us of a time when newspaper reporters were revered as heroes and guardians of truth and justice. Fans of the long-running radio program, The Big Story, are familiar with the format and Deadline was the filmed continuation (and, sadly, closing chapter) of the same series. 

Supporting cast includes Peter Falk, Diane Ladd, George Maharis, Robert Lansing, Paul Stewart, Larry Haines, Joanne Linville, Joseph Julian, Ralph Bell, Simon Oakland, Malachi Throne, Telly Zavala's, Don Hastings, Edgar Stehli, Robert Dryden, William Johnstone, Andrew Prine and many others. Filmed on location in New York City, the cast rarely includes actors from the West Coast, providing fans of the radio program an opportunity to watch the radio actors of New York to play roles. 

All 39 episodes were transferred for this 3-DVD release in gorgeous quality. My only gripe is the booklet in the set that focuses not on the history of the television program (or The Big Story) but rather the Journalistic Code of Ethics, a brief essay on the Dominance of the Internet and "Fake News," principal cores of journalism, and other material that is clearly padded and unnecessary. I really would have loved to read a history of the program rather than a journalist code of ethics. But then again, the set includes all 39 episodes so regardless of the inferior liner notes, this is a set worth grabbing now. 

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