Tag: You Ought to be on DVD

You Ought to be on DVD Revisited, Part One

Back in 2012, I wrote a series of articles about old movies and TV programs which ought to be on DVD but weren’t. Since that time, more material has been released on DVD, but still much of it remains elusive. So how much progress has been made in the last six years in getting great stuff to viewers? We’ll take a look.

The first article I wrote covered some vintage mystery series that were noticeably absent from DVD shelves. I’ve previously reported the serious progress made with Warner Archives releasing all the Perry Mason films  and six Philo Vance films.

Since then, there’s been a few releases. Let’s take a look at how the detectives I listed six years ago have fared:

Philo Vance:

Five years ago, there were six Philo Vance movies on DVD, now there are nine. The last three are post-War films, Philo Vance Returns with William Wright, and Philo Vance’s Gamble, and Philo Vance’s Secret Mission with Alan Curtis. Reviews seemed to be decidedly mixed about the quality of these releases. These are not from Warner Archive, but from a small company and let the buyer beware. Sadly, most of the William Powell stories as well as the Philo Vance case I’m most curious about (The Gracie Allen Murder Case) are still not available.

Hildegard Withers:

In 2013, Warner Archives released all six Hildegard Withers movies. Edna May Oliver is great when she plays the role, not so much for Zasu Pitts, but they’re all worth at least one watch.

Ellery Queen:

A mystery the Maestro himself couldn’t solve is why the Ellery Queen films starring Ralph Bellamy and the great William Gargan haven’t had a release.

The Lone Wolf:

In 2013, there had been one Lone Wolf film released. Since then, there have been two more, Counter-Espionage and Passport to Suez. These DVDs are made by Sony. All three of these DVDs contain one movie about an hour in length and cost around $20. For comparison’s sake, you can get the Perry Mason box set with six movies for $24.

Boston Blackie:

Sony has still only released two of the fourteen Boston Blackie films, both of them for a little bit less than $20.

After discussing movie series, I dedicated an entire article to Nero Wolfe and the lack of DVD releases outside of the excellent 2001 A Nero Wolfe Mystery series. There’s been some good news recently. A DVD box set has been released including the entire 14 episode Nero Wolfe TV series starring William Conrad and the very good Thayer David TV Movie based on the Doorbell Rang (not League of Frightened Men as I erroneously stated six years ago) which was a pilot for the series.

Other adaptations remain unavailable including the 1930s movies and the 1960 pilot with William Shatner as Archie Goodwin. Further, my hope of having a subtitled version of the 1960s Italian Nero Wolfe TV series released on Region 1 DVD with subtitles is probably a pipe dream. The series looks great from clips I’ve seen, but the only way to understand it will get an all-region DVD player and learn Italian. On the bright side, the 2012 Italian Nero Wolfe series has been released on region 1 DVD with English subtitles, so that gives me a little hope.

Then I took a look at films whose radio presence peaked my interest. The next year, one of those films, Mask of Demetrios, made it on to DVD and turned out to be a good movie. Sadly, none of the other three films I listed (Chicago Deadline, Mr. and Mrs. North, and To the Ends of the Earth) have been released.

We’ll return next week and take a look at what progress has been made on the rest of the titles I covered in 2012.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchase



You Ought to be on DVD Revisited: What’s New in Old Movies

Last year, I wrote a series of posts about TV series and movies that were due a DVD release and hadn’t received one. I’m pleasantly surprised to see some movement on this thanks largely to the efforts of Warner Brothers and their Warner archives collections. Here are some long lost treasures that can be brought home on DVD mostly due to the efforts of Warner Archives:

Perry Mason Movies: Before Raymond Burr made Perry Mason a television icon in the late 50s and early 60s, actors such as Warren William, Ricardo Perez, and Donald Woods took their turn playing the iconic lawyer in the 1930s. Warner Archives has released all six movies on DVD which will give audiences a chance to enjoy a Perry Mason closer to Erle Stanley Gardener’s hard-boiled intention.

Philo Vance Movies: Warner Archives is out with a sampler of Philo Vance movies covering several actors. There’s the Bishop Murder Case with Basil Rathbone, The Kennel Murder Case with William Powell, The Dragon Murder Case with Warren William, The Casino Murder Case with Paul Lucas, The Garden Murder Case with Edmund Lowe, and Calling Philo Vance with James Stephenson. There’s actually three more Powell entries and another William entry that I hope will see release.

Lone Wolfe Movie: This release of the Vance and Mason movies may be tied to a recent book about Warren William. That also will explain why one entry in the Lone Wolfe series has finally seen the light of day with the release of, The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady.

While I didn’t mention the relatively short Nick Carter detective movie series with Walter Pidgeon, those have also been released.

It’s not just Mystery Series that Warner Brothers is releasing, but also standalone mystery classics. We played the Screen GUild Theater presentation of, The Mask of Demetrios for one of our specials and at last this film has earned a DVD release. The thriller is rare as it stars Peter Lorre as a hero not named Moto and Sidney Greenstreet plays a heavy.

On the comedy front, the Great Gildersleeve movies with Harold Peary have seen release along with one movie (Seven Days Leave) in which Gildersleeve is a supporting character for Lucille Ball’s lead.

Finally, while I haven’t gotten my wish about more Dr. Kildare movies making their way to DVD, the first season of the Dr. Kildare TV series starring Richard Chamberlain has been released.

Overall, Warner Archives deserves a debt of thanks from fans of classic golden age entertainment. There’s still much more unreleased material that’s part of America’s cultural heritage. From Johnny Midnight to Dick Powell’s To the Ends of the Earth, but Warner Brothers has taken some great steps by making so many productions available to a mass audience. Well done. I’ve added many of these movies to my Amazon wish list and hope to see them very soon.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

You Ought to Be On DVD: And the Rest

Previous, Unreleased TV DetectivesThe Ziv Properties, Vintage Detective Movie SerialsI Heard it on RadioNero WolfeMark VII Limited Productions, Beloved Radio Characters Comedy, and Super Heroes

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this series on TV programs and movies that should be on DVD and aren’t.  In this one, I’ll try and wrap everything up with other miscellaneous movies and TV series that haven’t gotten a deserved DVD release:

The Dr. Kildare series has perhaps been noteworthy. The Kildare series starring Lew Ayers and the continuing Gillespie series starring Lionel Barrymore that was made after MGM dropped Ayers due to his Conscientious Objector status in World War II. Also missing from an official release is the Dr. Kildare TV series starring Richard Chamberlain which ran for five season. This popular franchise featured some of the finest actors of their periods and had 30 years of popularity. So what gives with the lack official DVD releases? All that is available are two Kildare films that have lapsed into the public domain.

In addition, another medical drama that ran five seasons, Ben Casey didn’t receive a DVD release even though the series was nominated for several emmys during its run, picked up a couple, and enjoys a 7.4 rating on IMDB. 

Another medical based series (this one set against the back drop of war) was reccomended by one of my Facebook fans for a DVD release. China Beach rate from 1988-91 and enjoys a solid 7.9 rating on IMBD. The release has been held up by disputes over music rights, but hopefully there can be sufficient demand to resolve this.

Finally, one series I should have mentioned previously that occurred to me after I wrote the appropriate post was “The New Dragnet.” This is not to be confused with the Dick Wolf produced “LA Dragnet” but rather the 1989-91 syndicated Dragnet series. The program was temporarily viewable on Hulu and I saw quite a few episodes. It’s true the budgets weren’t high and the actors weren’t big name but the series did a servicable job bringing Dragnet into the late 1980s with good interaction between the two leads and well-crafted stories that seemed a good fit for Dragnet. Yes, it has a new jazzy 1980s opening and yes, it’s not the same without Jack Webb, but it is serviceable and for the Dragnet fans who have seen everything else, the series would be a great way to feed the hunger for a little more classic procedural action.

If you have any TV shows or movies that you’d like to see on DVD that aren’t, leave your comments.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

You Ought to be on DVD: This Looks Like a Job for a DVD Release

Previous, Unreleased TV DetectivesThe Ziv Properties, Vintage Detective Movie SerialsI Heard it on RadioNero WolfeMark VII Limited Productions, and Beloved Radio Characters Comedy,

With the recent craze of superhero movies, is it time for some TV shows to reveal themselves once again to the world?

The most requested TV show that fans most want to see according to TVShowsonDVD.com is, the 1967 Batman TV series. It’s somewhat remarkable that the series, still well-beloved, popular, and fun for its campy comedy has not yet received a DVD release. The problem comes down to rights issues between Fox (the producer of the program) and Warner Brothers and DC comics, the current owners of the Batman character.

This series remains an inconic television classic that remains popular in reruns to this day and it’s astonishing that these sides can’t get together. Of course, it’s far from the only superhero program to have difficulty getting to DVD.

There’s a similar problem with Superboy. The character of Superman as a a boy in Smallville has been put on hold due to a dispute between DC Comics and the families of the character’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Only those properties specifically calling the character Superboy, so the TV series Smallville has had no problems. However, the 1960s Cartoon Superboy has been stuck in limbo as has the latter seasons of the 1980s and 1990s Superboy Television show. (Update: After I wrote this piece but before I published it, Season 2 of Superboy was cleared for release.)

However, other than these exceptions, DC has been good about getting most of their superheroes to DVD. The only other exceptions is a 1960s Batman Animated shorts that aired as part of the Batman-Superman Adventure hour.

Marvel has quite a few programs not released on DVD. Among them are five 1960s Cartoon Series featuring the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Thor, The Incrediblue Hulk, and Submariner. In addition, the live action Amazing Spider-man Television series from the 1970s was not released. The list of programs spans more decades with the 1970s Spider-woman cartoon and Fantastic Four programs not being on DVD. Also missing are the 1980s Incredible Hulk program along with two separate Spider-man programs along with the highly acclaimed 1990s Spider-man television series being limited to four collections of scattered episodes , in addition the Spider-man Unlimited TV series has not been released.

The major Marvel Series facing any legal issue is the 1960s Fantastic Four Series which has its rights owned by Hanna-Barbera which is a rival to Disney. This is a shame as the series features two well-known radio actors in prominent roles. Mr. Fantastic was voiced by Gerald Mohr (Philip Marlowe) and The Thing is played by radio jack of all trades Paul Frees.

To be fair, some of these Marvel programs have enjoyed streaming time on Netflix. However, that’s not the same as an actual DVD release that anyone with a DVD player can enjoy and own.

Each of these programs in their own way took a unique look at these men and women in tights, and most have a different spin than modern incarnations. Based on the fact that comic book companies have realized that their original Golden and Silver Age books have strong demand, it seems bizarre that they would practically abandon the sales of these older television shows to black and gray marketers. By releasing these programs particularly with the current popularity of superhero movies, all companies involved can make money while allowing these programs to be enjoyed by new generations.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

You Ought to be on DVD: Beloved Radio Comedy Characters

Unreleased TV DetectivesThe Ziv Properties, Vintage Detective Movie SerialsI Heard it on RadioNero Wolfe, and Mark VII Limited Productions

For 24 1/2 years, Husband and Wife Jim and Marion Jordan played Fibber McGee and Molly over the radio as it became one of the most recognizable and iconic shows of radio’s golden age. From that show, span off Harold Peary as the Great Gildersleeve, a role he held down for eleven years, two as a supporting character on Fibber McGee and Molly.

However, what many people don’t is that these radio legends made a series of movies. In 1937, Fibber McGee and Molly had bit parts in This Way Please and followed up with three more movies in prominent roles in Look Who’s Laughing, Here We Go Again, and Heavenly Days. Only Look Who’s Laughing  has been released and that as part of a Lucille Ball RKO pictures collections.

Peary appeared in two of these films as Gildersleeve.  Gildersleeve also had parts in three other films in the late 1930s and early 40s before four Gildersleeve were made between 1942-44.

Of course, they weren’t the only beloved radio comics to get shorted in DVD released. Lum and Abner had a career on radio running from 1931-54, with a few breaks here and there. They made seven films in the process. Four of the Lum and Abner films have lapsed into the public domain.  However, the last three, Goin’ to Town, Partners in Time, and Lum ‘n Abner Abroad remain far more difficult to obtain.

Finally William Bendix made a name playing Chester Riley on The Life of Riley. The radio series is widely available, however television show availability is far more spotty without an official release. In addition, The Life of Riley movie hit theaters in 1949 towards the tale end of the radio run.  One show writer/producer who lived into the 21st had made a big deal about radio fans sharing episodes of the radio series, yet seemingly took no steps to get an official release of either TV shows or Movies on to DVD. What a revoltin’ development.

Then we have Our Miss Brooks. The movie version starring Eve Arden has finally been released as an archive DVD. Great! Will we soon see the four seasons released for fans to enjoy on an official release with great video quality?

Perhaps, most neglected radio show that moved to television is the Burns and Allen program. No official DVD release of the show’s mostly copyrighted filmed run has occurred. Mostly what is available are somewhat badly restored episodes from the kinescope runs.

Here’s hoping for better care and availability of our comedy heritage in years to come.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

You Ought to be on DVD: Mark VII Limited

Previous: Unreleased TV Detectives, The Ziv Properties, Vintage Detective Movie Serials, I Heard it on Radio, Nero Wolfe, and Mark VII Limited Productions.

I’m a little hesitant to write this piece. Most of the other programs and movies I’ve listed we know are in existence, if for no other reason than the existence of black and grey market versions.

However, most of Webb’s productions we’ll discuss here, it’s really an open question as to whether many of them are in existence. There have been many rumors about the disposition of Webb’s intellectual property: of mismanagement of the studio or by Webb’s widow. So how much of this is in existence remains an open question.

However, Much of the wonderful Mark VII productions made by Webb are not readily available. The biggest example of this in the 1950s run of Dragnet. From one source or another, around 63 episodes of Dragnet are available on DVDs or online out of 277 episodes. And these shows are pretty much available without much rhyme or reason and of varying quality. Dragnet deserves an official release and really that’s the only way that many of the episodes will be seen. While most of TV Dragnet is in the public Domain, most of Season 4, all of Seasons 5 and 6, and a few episodes from Season 8 are under copyright.

Webb’s productions include a wide variety of interesting topics. There was the TV series Pete Kelly’s Blues based on the radio series and movie of the same name that ran in 1959 and starred William Reynolds. There were also a wide variety of series that like Dragnet took a look at how people did amazing jobs. Some of these included Mobile One (Electronic News Gathering), The D.A.’s Man (an Investigator work for the District Attorney), the D.A., O’Hara, U.S. Treasury, and Sierra (park rangers), Project UFO (Project Blue Book). In addition, there were more anthology programs such as Escape which featured people stuck in life threatening situations, In addition, there were a couple other cop shows called Sam (featuring a canine partner) and Chase.

What we have of Jack Webb’s work shows him to be very talented at bringing the real world to us and much of these portrayals still resonate nearly three decades after his death, so future generations should be able to enjoy them on DVD if they are available.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

You Ought to be on DVD: Unreleased TV Detectives

Previous: The Ziv Properties, Vintage Detective Movie Serials, I Heard it on Radio, Nero Wolfe

Some the details on some of these shows are rather scant. That’s due to their lack of availability, so all we have are a few details.

Richard Diamond, Private Detective-Several episodes of this show have landed on DVD with the first season entirely in the public domain. But this series with a pre-fugive David Janssen ran 4 years, adapted many radio scripts, and featured early work by Mary Tyler Moore. With action, adventure, and good pacing there’s no reason why Richard Diamond shouldn’t be given a full out full series release with all 77 episodes available to be enjoyed.

77 Sunset Strip: A popular detective drama featuring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Roger Smith as his partner. The show was popular, ran for six seasons, and spawned many imitators. Currently rated a 8.1 on IMDB.

The Line Up: This program based on the classic radio show of the same name ran as a Dragnet Rival for six seasons and was resyndicated as San Francisco Beat.  Most episodes are still under copyright protection but are very scarce. Rated 7.4 on IMDB.

Hawaiian Eye: A fan favorite starring Robert Conrad as a handsome Private Eye plying his trade in Hawaii. Also starred Connie Stevens. Rated 7.8 on Imdb.

Johnny Midnight: Detective program starring Oscar Winning Actor and Yours Truly Johnny Dollar star (1950-52) Edmond O’Brien as a former broadway detective turned private eye. Rated 6.5 on IMDB.

Hawk: This 1966 series starred a young (30 year old) Burt Reynolds a a Native American detective working for the New York District Attorney’s office.  Rated  7.0 on IMDB.

The Felony Squad: Classic police series starring Howard Duff (Sam Spade) and Ben Alexander (Dragnet) Currently rated 8.3 on IMDB.

Dan August: Another detective vehicle starring Burt Reynolds as Santa Luisa Police Lieutenant Dan August and ran during the 1970-71 season. Reynolds netted a golden globe nomination for his performance.  Rated 6.6 on IMDB>

Longstreet: 1971 Detective show featuring James Franciscus as a blind detective. Only episodes available on DVD are those featuring Bruce Lee. Rated 8.0 on IMDB.

Jigsaw: Short lived 1972 series starring James Wainwright as a police detective and later private detective who handled missing person cases. Rated 6.2 on IMDB.

Hec Ramsey: Western Detective series starring Richard Boone (Have Gun Will Travel) as a detective in the Old West. Also featured Harry Morga and was part of NBC’s Mystery Wheel. Rated 7.8 on IMDB.

Lanigan’s Rabbi: A police chief (Art Carney) solves crimes with the help of a rabbi (Bruce Solomon.) I know it’s only rated 5.2 on IMDB but the whole concept is intriguing.

Tenafly:  Along with Richard Roundtree’s Shaft, Tenafly was the first detective show to feature a black private eye. The star was James McEachin who I’ve most often seen portraying Lt. Ed Brock in the  Perry Mason and Lt. Frank Daniels on Matlock, two cops who were constantly arresting the wrong guy. As such, I think we’re entitled to see him actually getting the right guy a few times. Rated 6.9 on IMDB.

Mathnet: Mathnet was a feature on PBS Square One program which grew bigger as the series progressed becoming a sort of comedy mystery show within a show rather than a mere Dragnet parody.  The show featured its fictional mathematicians usually all sorts of math principles to solve cases. The math is still up to date and it has great nostalgia appeal for “kids of all ages.” Rated 7.6 on IMDB.

Cosby Mysteries: This 1994-95 series starred Bill Cosby as Guy Hanks, a New York criminologist who retired from the police force after winning the lottery and having a heart attack, but emerges to solve some difficult and puzzling cases. The series is only rated a 5.0 on IMDB, but I really don’t get why.  It featured solid mysteries and a great lead and supporting cast particularly James Naughton as Detective Sully. Certainly, there has to be enough Cosby fans to make this one get on DVD.

I’d love your thoughts on my list. Also what other detective shows do you think deserve a DVD release. (Hint: Check TVShowsonDVD first as many programs have actually gotten released.)

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

You Ought to be on DVD: The Ziv Properties

Previous: Vintage Detective Movie Serials, I Heard it on Radio, Nero Wolfe

Frederick Ziv was listed as #66 on our list of radio’s most essential people, but he was also critical in early television. Ziv Television turned out some of the most fascinating first-run syndicated television series. Many of these titles will be recognizable to old time radio fans such as Mr. District Attorney, Boston Blackie, Easy Aces, Bold Venture (alas without Bogart and Becall), Dr. Christian (with Carey playing the nephew of the original Dr. Christian), and the Eddie Cantor Comedy Theater. In addition fans of I Was a Communist for the FBI would appreciate the even better TV series I Led Three Lives.

Sadly, most of these programs are unavailable on DVD. A few like Lock Up (starring Macdonald Carey) have lapsed into the public domain in their entirety or like Boston Blackie or Bat Masterson have lapsed partially, so some prints are available, but alas most of these programs if they’re available at all are only available through gray market or black market source with variable quality.

It’s a shame because Ziv had some truly entertaining programs that filled non-prime time hours.

In addition to all of the radio programs brought to television, there were many other highlights: There was the King of Diamond series that featured William Gargan’s only acting appearance after the loss of his voice due to removal of his larynx. There were several great sea programs including Men of Annapolis, The Aquanauts, Harbor Command, Waterfront, and Seahunt. There was the sky diving drama Ripcord. MGM’s only step on the Ziv programs was an over-priced released of Season 1 of Highway Patrol at a cost of more than $50.

Of course, it’s not only Ziv’s programs that MGM’s neglected. Only one episode of MGM’s Thin Man Television series from 1957 with Peter Lawford has been released and that as an extra with the Thin Man movies.

I hope that MGM will work to get these programs released, maybe by selling the rights to a company like Timeless Media Group or Shout  Factory who have shown competence in selling and marketing classic television shows. As it is right now, there’s a lot of great TV going to waste in the MGM vault.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

You Ought to be on DVD: Nero Wolfe

Previous: Vintage Detective Movie Serials, I Heard it on Radio

If one great fictional detective has been slighted in terms of DVD and Home video releases, it is Nero Wolfe. The fine A&E Television series is available on DVD, but everything else isn’t. The following are missing:

Two 1930s Movies
1959 TV Pilot with Kurt Kasner and William Shatner as Archie Goodwin
The 1979 TV movie with David Thayer
The 1981 TV Series with William Conrad

It has been a challenge to adapt Wolfe stories into popular visual media, so many of these efforts have not worked.

However, it won’t do to say that poor quality should keep these adaptations off of DVD. After all, some fans may be right when they think William Conrad’s Nero Wolfe is off-base. However, the rest of us should be able to decide the question for ourselves. Even Galactica 1980 has been given a DVD release.

Perhaps, the one film that looks dreadful based on clips and ratings is 1937’s League of Frightened Men with a miscast Lionel Stander as Archie Goodwin and an equally poorly cast Walter Connolly as Nero Wolfe. The movie is only rated a 5.0 on IMDB which is the same as Henry Silva’s unthrilling 1965 thriller The Return of Mr. Moto. (Which by the way did it make its way to DVD.)

Beyond this, those fans that have seen 1936’s Meet Nero Wolfe (6.7), Thayer’s Nero Wolfe TV Movie based on The League of Frightened Men (7.0) and Conrad’s Nero Wolfe Series (7.3) have enjoyed them. And no doubt, a wider audience would enjoy them as well. They may not all perfectly match the tone of the books but even the A&E series doesn’t do that.

Another great opportunity would be to put the foreign Nero Wolfe programs on Region 1 DVD. Nero Wolfe movies have been made in Russian, Italian, and Germany. My particular interest would be in the 1960s Italian Series. A few clips have shown up on Youtube and the show looks very well done in classic black and white. Personally, I’d love to watch these films with subtitles to enjoy the cadence of the original actors while still knowing what’s going on. The best of that particular series is that of the ten stories they did, eight were not done by A&E, so it would make interesting viewing as would all of the unreleased Nero Wolfe material included the Kasner-Shatner pilot which hasn’t been seen in more than fifty years.

There’s a lot of Nero Wolfe that should be released and it’s about time for Hollywood to get started.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

You Ought to Be on DVD: I Heard It On Radio

Previous in this series: Vintage Detective Movie Serials

This post is going to be dedicated to four movies I’d love to see on DVD but were not part of a mystery series. All of them ultimately are inspired by what I’ve heard on radio. One features one my favorite radio stars. The other four were adapted for the Lux Radio Theatre, the Screen Guild Theatre, or the Screen Director’s Playhouse, leaving me curious to see the films on which the radio plays were based.

Mr. and Mrs. North (1942): This film starred William Post as Gerald North and Gracie Allen (yes that Gracie Allen) as Pam North. I’m a fan of both Gracie Allen and the North’s so this is a natural film for me to want to see released on DVD. Currently rated 6.6 on IMDB by those who have been lucky enough to see it.
The Mask of Dimitros (1944)-I have more to go on than an inkling that I like the stars, though with Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet, that alone should demand a DVD release. However, the movie was adapted to radio as a Screen Guild Theater episode. The half hour adaptation only wets my appetite to see the full film. From what we can hear on the radio, it’s a suspenseful story. It also gives Lorre a rare chance to play a role that’s neither a heavy or Mr. Moto. Rated 7.2 on IMDB.

Chicago Deadline (1949)- Alan Ladd stars as a reporter who finds a beautiful young woman (Donna Reed) dead of untreated TB. Ladd seeks to find out how she came to that end and begins an investigation with the help of her little black book. I heard this was on the Screen Director’s Playhouse, and it was very engaging story with a reminder of the importance of every life. Rated 6.6 on IMDB.

To The Ends of the Earth (1948)- Dick Powell stars as Commissioner Michael Barrows who witnessed the murder of 100 Chinese slaves to cover up a drug trafficking operation. Barrows set out to get justice and break the narcotics racket. This was fascinating story that had to struggle against the Hayes code as it dealt with narcotics in any way. However, the overall thrust of the radio episode was that narcotics were the tools not just of money hungry criminals, but of extremists who wanted to fund their causes while underming America’s moral and mental strength. IMDB Rating: 7.2

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

You Ought to be on DVD: Vintage Mystery Movie Series

The era of DVDs has brought many great films and television shows to people’s home viewing. Yet there are many efforts that have not been given their due with a DVD release so they can be enjoyed by audiences. Instead they’re not shown at all or show only occasionally on certain TV channels.

The good news in recent years is that most studios have continued a slow roll out of material. Some material that’s been considered to be of commercially questionable value have been released on DVR through Archives collections which have given viewers access to such treasures as the George Sanders Saint Collection and Red Skelton’s Whistling Trilogy without committing studios to spending large amounts of money on a big run of DVDs.

However, there remain plenty of TV programs and movies that have not gotten their due with a DVD release and have thus remained obscure and hard to come by except from the sellers of bootleg DVDs.

So, in this series of posts we’ll be taking a look at some movies and television shows that deserve to be available on retail DVDs.  Our focus is on detectives and there are quite a few detective films from the golden era that are not available. The biggest contingent is the detective movie series. In the pre-Television era, these film detectives starred in “movies” that were usually between 60 and 75 minutes. The most famous of these are the Charlie Chan and the Rathbone-Bruce Sherlock Holmes films. In addition to this, Peter Lorre’s Mr. Moto films and Bonita Granville’s Nancy Drew films, have been released as well as the public domain adventures of Mr. Wong and Bulldog Drummond. The Michael Shayne films have scored partial releases have the Falcon and the Saint.  However, the mystery film series goes beyond that and there’s much missing that ought to be there.

5) Philo Vance

Series run: 1929-40, 1947

Stars: William Powell (5 films), Warren William (2 Films), Alan Curtis (2 Films), Basil Rathbone, Paul Lucas, Edmund Lowe, Grant Richards, Wilfrid Hyde-Wright, James Stephenson, William Wright

Total Films: 16

“Philo Vance needs a kick in the pants.” So concluded Ogden Nash. Many a literary critic has wondered why the arrogant and unlikable literary Vance become so popular. The answer may be that America loved the great British detectives and longed for one of stature they could call their own and Vance was the first American-based detective to be at that level.

The movies are another matter and ought to be a fun opportunity for fans, especially the Rathbone film as well as five featuring a pre-Thin Man William Powell. This series was a big step in Powell’s career, so much so that in the Thin Man Trailer, “Philo Vance” helps to introduce the new movie series.  Sadly, only one film from this series is readily available and that one escaped into the public domain.

5) Hildegard Withers

Series Run: 1932-37

Stars: Edna May Oliver (3 Films),  Zasu Pitts (2 Films), Helen Broderick

Total Films: 6

A classic series of Comedy mysteries, the first three films with Oliver are acclaimed as solid comedy mysteries featuring Boston-based spinster who finds herself involved in murder mysteries.

4) Ellery Queen

Series Run: 1940-42

Stars: Ralph Bellamy (4 films) and William Gargan (3 Films):

Total Films: 7

Ellery Queen remains one of the most recognized characters in detective fiction and the 1975 TV series is on DVD but this classic series featuring the master detective played by not one but two great actors is completely absent.

3) The Lone Wolf

Series Run: 1935, 1938-43, 1946-47, 1940

Stars: Warren William (9 films), Gerald Mohr (3 films), Melvyn Douglas, Francis Lederer, Ron Randelll

Total Films: 15

Michael Lanyard (aka The Lone Wolf), like Boston Blackie was a jewel thief turned detective. He was the lead character in several novels by Joseph Vance as well as a series of silent films.

Two isolated films in 1935 and ’38 were made before Warren William made The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt in 1939. The turn to espionage was timely and Williams would make 8 more Lone Wolf Films before 1943.  Also of interest are the three films starring Gerald Mohr (better known as the star of radio’s Philip Marlowe) released in 1946 and ’47.

In addition, I would also put a plug in here for giving a full DVD release to the 1954-55 TV series starring Louis Heyward. The 39-episode syndicated series was top notch with Heyward turning in an action-packed performance as Michael Lanyard.

2) Perry Mason

Series Run: 1934-37

Stars: Warren William (4 Films), Ricardo Cortez, Donald Woods

Before there was Raymond Burr, there was Warren William as Perry Mason hit theaters in the mid-30s. The release of these films would make a nice contrast to the more recent takes on Perry Mason.

1) Boston Blackie

Series Run: 1940-49

Star: Chester Morris (14 Films)

Morris played the character of reformed thief Boston Blackie in one of the more popular 1940s Detective film franchises that was a huge moneymaker for Columbia. Over the course of the films which ranged from 60-68 minutes in length, Boston Blackie became one of the more interesting golden era characters. We pick up the result of some of this evolution in the Boston Blackie series. That this most beloved series hasn’t been given its due on DVD is a shame and hopefully, it will be corrected.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.