Tag: faint praise

Film Review: The Body Vanished

The Body Vanished is a 1939 British film where a vacationing Scotland Yard detective inspector and his reporter chum stumble across a mystery at a country house where the butler discovers a body, which then disappears.

I was able to watch this film for free on Amazon Prime. It’s a fun comedy mystery and seems to be a Quota Quickie, which adds up to the equivalent of an American B movie. This works better than your average American “B” picture. While it is low budget and some of the characters are a bit broad, the actors all know their business.

I admire the economy of the story telling. This is 15-20 minutes shorter than an American “B” film and that makes it a better movie because the story moves at a faster pace and avoids the more annoying padding you’d see in many of the American “B” films of the era.

This is by no means a classic, or a must-see film. It is a competently done black and white mystery that doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you like B-movies or simple light comedy mysteries, this will be an entertaining enough use of 46 minutes, so it’s worth checking out.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Audio Drama Review: Agatha Christie: The Lost Plays:

Agatha Christie: The Lost Radio Plays collects three BBC radio plays that aired between 1948 and 1960. It also includes some bonus material.

“Butter in a Lordly Dish” from 1948 stars Richard Williams as Sir Luke Enderby KC, a skilled prosecutor who is also a philanderer, who is headed out on his latest fling. Then there’s Personal Call, a 1955 original story about a man receiving calls from someone claiming to be his dead wife. It stars Ivan Brandt and Barbara Lott. Finally, Williams stars as Poirot in the hour-long adaptation of Christie’s “Murder in the Mews.”

The acting is mostly solid with a few exceptions. There is a slight bent to the melodramatic in the original radio plays, and Williams isn’t the best Poirot ever.

As for the writing, anyone expecting new masterpieces will be disappointed. “Butter in a Lordly Dish” is comparable to an above average episode of the 1960s American series Theater Five.  “Personal Call” is comparable to an average mid-1950s episode of Suspense. “Murder in the Mews” is a good story undermined by direction and style that is competent at best and Williams is a somewhat mediocre Poirot.

The extras include Agatha Christie-related audio recordings and interviews with actors who appeared in the original London stage production of her play the Mousetrap. In addition, comedian Toby Hadoke interviews the last-surviving cast member of the radio plays. In that extra, they discuss his showbiz career and how he became a successful costume designer on both sides of the pond. Hadoke is a talented interviewer who shows great interests in his subjects and makes this far more interesting than you might otherwise expect.

Overall,  major fans of Agatha Christie will enjoy this release. It features rare and little-heard radio productions featuring her work that are okay, but not remarkable. In addition, the bonus material is well-presented and engaging.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Book Review: Enter the Saint

Enter the Saint is the first short story collection featuring Simon Templar after he appeared in the novel Meet the Tiger.

The book collects three stories:

“The Man Who Was Clever” sees the Saint trying to take down a drug smuggler and blackmailer. It’s a good crime-busting yarn that allows the Saint to show his pure unadulterated nerve and ability to bait a trap.

“The Policeman with Wings” has the Saint investigating the curious case of a wealthy man who disappeared from his house after being escorted away by a mysterious policeman. This leads an elaborate and somewhat high-handed set up to uncover the true motives of the kidnappers and prevent them from harming the kidnapped man’s niece and heir.

Finally, there’s “The Lawless Lady” which finds the Saint in the background as one of his men. Dicky Tremaine goes undercover with a gang planning a big jewel heist at sea, and finds himself falling for female leader of the gang. Meanwhile, another member appears to be playing to eliminate him. The Saint does make his presence known at the end, but this is an unusual story to say the least.

The stories this book are enjoyable crime tales for the most part. It’s clear that Leslie Charteris is still developing the nature of the Saint. However, this book features most of what makes the Saint work.  You have dashing escapes, the Saint’s absolute audacity and laughing in the face of danger, and you have three good rogues who are worthy adversaries. The third story is a little strange, but it’s still entertaining.

Probably, the book’s biggest shortcoming is giving the Saint an entire organization of agents in support of him. I can see why this was done. Other popular literary figures of the era such as Doc Savage, the Shadow, and Nick Carter had their men to support him. Besides that it supported Charteris’s attempt to brand the Saint the Robin Hood of Modern Crime. After all, what’s Robin Hood without his merry men?

Yet, the Saint is really best when working with one assistant or two at most. In effect, in most of these stories, that’s what he’s doing. We really don’t get to focus on the Saint’s band, and eventually, they’d be discarded as surplus.

If you enjoy some good crime stories from the Golden Age of fiction, you could do far worse than this book. Despite its flaws, the book showcases the talent and style that would make Leslie Charteris a literary fixture for decades to come.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

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DVD Review: The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady


Joan Bradley (Jean Muir), a secretary about to meet her boss’ son is confronted by a husband she’d believed dead who shows up at her apartment to blackmail her. He is murdered while she’s in the other room. She runs into the Lone Wolf (Warren William) and his butler sidekick Jamison (Eric Blore). The two try to help the secretary by chivalrously altering the crime scene in a way that makes her look innocent. However, the police catch a mistake and it’s up to the Lone Wolf to find the real murderer or else he and the secretary could go to jail.

Overall, the film is decently executed. The mystery and the supporting characters are adequate. Warren William has a decent turn as the detective, but was not a standout for the era. He lacked the energy he had in some of his earlier films and was not up to the standard of Chester Morris and George Sanders who played similar roles in the Saint and Boston Blackie films. The saving grace of the film was Eric Blore, who made a great comic sidekick. Blore steals every scene he’s in and provides just the right amount of comic relief to the film without becoming annoying as so many comic sidekicks of the era did.

The DVD is the definition of no frills: no DVD menu, let alone any extras. As a result, when you put the DVD in, it starts playing automatically. For me, this was a minor annoyance.

Overall, this isn’t a bad mystery, but I only recommend it if you want to see an example of the Lone Wolf in action.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5.0

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