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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

'Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries' DVD: Homicide Detective With No Desire to Dance Ballet

Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries Five-Film Collection
Warner Archive's recent five-film DVD release "Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries" is a nice follow-up to the less-recent "Wild Bill Elliott Western Double Feature." The latter features the oaters in which Elliott stars, and the former has Elliott playing the police homicide detective persona that he adopts after retiring his cowboy garb.


The wonderfully titled "Dial Red O" from 1955 kicks off the "detective" set. This noir gem has Elliott's Lieutenant Andy Flynn investigating the murder of a woman on the day that she informs her husband of a divorce filing.

The facts that the divorce notice prompts said spouse, who is a World War II and Korean War veteran, to escape from the psychiatric ward of the Veterans' Administration hospital where he is a long-term patient and that he goes to his wife's apartment on busting out make him the prime suspect.

Nice noir elements of this film that is largely set in daytime hours include the wife's affair with a married man, an odd neighbor of said wife, and a couple of gin joints.

The noir elements continue with a trademark climatic gun fight and equally common ending in which justice is served.

"Sudden Danger," which is also from 1955, has a stronger element of pulp fiction than the equally good "Dial." The name of Elliott's character is slightly changed to Andy Doyle in this one.

"Danger" revolves around the apparent suicide of a woman who is a partner in a clothing company; the indications that her recently sightless adult son went into a blind (it must be stated) rage and killed his mother because she was withholding money for an operation that might have restored his vision prompts the investigation by Doyle.

A particularly awesome element of this one has a hubba hubba Beverly Garland, who goes onto play a simultaneous mom and grandmother in "My Three Sons" and "Scarecrow and Mrs. King," as a possible fatale femme.

The action and nefarious dealings, with and without the requisite gold-digging bimbo, make "Danger" particularly appealing.

Time constraints require saving "Calling Homicide" and "Chain of Evidence" from this series for a rainy Sunday afternoon or snow day double-feature treat.

This DVD set and Elliott's series of detective films wraps ups with 1957's "Footsteps in the Night." The case for Elliott's Doyle in this one is the murder of a mild-mannered man who does not seem to have an enemy in the world.

The potential red herring is the man's neighbor, who is a gambling addict whose card game with the victim ends only minutes before the murder. The featured dame in this one is the very loyal girlfriend of the suspect.

"Footsteps" is arguably the most clever of the lot; the circumstances of the murder and the method used to solve the crime require intelligence and good detective instincts.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, from "Footsteps" provides an awesome sense of the aforementioned strong noir vibe in all five films. This includes wonderfully orchestrated score that is equally at home in a Hitchcock film and a Looney Tunes cartoon.
 
Although Elliott always gets his man, the solution to the crime of why they don't make exceptional noir films like his anymore remains elusive 60 years after this genre dies out.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding the Elliott films is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.