Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

HAPPY (Belated) 55TH, JIM AND ARTIE!!!!

by Tony Nash

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

Tickle Me: The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Watery Death (1966)
The Iconic Opening Title (from Tickle Me)

The Wild Wild West (1965-1969) ***** TV-PG

Robert Conrad: James T. “Jim” West

Ross Martin: Artemus “Artie” Gordon

Michael Dunn: Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless

Phoebe Dorin: Antoinette

Roy Engel: President Ulysses S. Grant

Douglas Henderson: Colonel Richmond

William Schallert: Frank Harper/Silas Grigsby/Rufus Krause

Nehemiah Persoff: Gen. Andreas Cassinello/Adam Barclay/Major Hazard

Victor Buono: Count Carlos Manzeppi/Juan Manolo

Ford Rainey: Hellfire Simon/Pa Garrison/Adm. Charles Hammond

Anthony Caruso: Chief Bright Star/Deuce/Jose Aguila

Robert Ellenstein: Dr. Horatio Occularis/ Dr. Theobald Raker/Luis Vasquez/Arthur Tickle

Christopher Carey: Tycho/Snakes Tolliver

Theodore Marcuse: Abdul Hassan/Gustave Mauvais/Dr. Jonathan Kirby (as Theo Marcuse)

Richard Kiel: Voltaire/Dimas Buckley

Charles Aidman: Jeremy Pike

Other Notable Guest Stars Including: Boris Karloff, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, Jackie Coogan, Leslie Neilson, Robert Duvall, James Gregory, Jack Elam, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Floyd Patterson, Keenan Wynn, Martin Landau, Agnes Moorehead, Burgess Meredith, Barbara Luna, Nick Adams, Brad Dillman, Beverly Garland, Don Rickles, Ed Asner, and Simon Oakland

Created by: Michael Garrison

Produced by: Bruce Lansbury

Synopsis: In post Civil War America, government agents Jim West and Artie Gordon, under direct orders from President Grant, save the world from varying maniacal madmen, corrupt businessmen & politicians, and sometimes elements bordering the fantastical/supernatural.

Robert Conrad, Two-Fisted TV Star of 'Wild Wild West,' Dies at 84 - The New  York Times
Jim and Artie Investigating a Lead (from NY Times)

This September will mark the 55th Anniversary of my 2nd all time favorite TV show from childhood, The Wild Wild West. I can still recall many a Saturday and Sunday morning watching this show with my Dad on TNT (back when stations still aired classic TV), and thoroughly have a good time. Finally getting the TV show for varying Christmas and Birthday gifts allows me (and my Dad) to revisit the show anytime I want.

Artie Reads a Note to Jim About the Large Crate Sent to Them (from aboard the wanderer)

What made the show so cool for me was the unique adventures Jim and Artie would have, the varying gadgets they would employ to escape and outsmart the bad guys, and the seemingly endless array of disguises Artie would use to help Jim out of a jam and to infiltrate suspects to get info they needed. The fight scenes with Robert Conrad taking on the various henchmen of the villain or villains at hand were always my favorite parts to watch as Conrad did all of his own fight choreography and the majority other stunts (he would’ve done the full 100% had one particularly tricky stunt not gone haywire and put him in the hospital). Seeing Jim West take on legions of baddies and kicking ass every time was/and still is a big thrill for me, something not a lot of TV Westerns I was able to catch glimpses of here and there did. Even now I prefer a good solid storyline with well timed action over to character study Westerns any day, although now that I’m older I do find I enjoy some of those types of stories as well.

Cool Ass Cinema: From Beyond Television: The Wildest Episodes of The Wild,  Wild West Season 1
West and Dr. Loveless – Sworn Enemies (from Cool Ass Cinema)

I may need to backtrack my previous statement about character depth, as some of the best episodes were the frequent battle of barbs, wit, and wills between Jim West and Dr. Miguelito Loveless, who labeled West as his archenemy. Robert Conrad and Michael Dunn had a fantastic chemistry (as good as the chemistry Conrad had with Ross Martin) together that led to great dialogue and spicing up the storyline the duo were involved in. Whether Loveless was trying to threaten the US government with violence if he didn’t get what he wanted, or was simply looking to take over the World, West was always around to confound and drive Loveless batty. The ultimate irony was is that over time, both men developed a type of respect for one another, although West would never approve of Loveless’ methods and Loveless would always be baffled by West’s unwavering optimism in his government and country. Michael Dunn’s increasing poor health stemming from Dwarfism resulted in the actor’s less frequent appearances after Season 2, and while several attempts were made to give West a couple other recurring villains so Dunn wouldn’t have as high a workload, no one ever matched the same click chemistry Dunn and Conrad enjoyed.

Classic TV & Movie Hits - The Wild Wild West / The Wild, Wild West
A Promotional Still (from Classic TV Hits)

Another cool thing that separated the series from others like it was the take on violence. While there were gunfights, they were often instigated by the baddies, West and Gordon acting completely in self defense. The producers and writers focused more on well choreographed fight scenes where West and Gordon would knock the baddies out and send them to the nearest police or federal officers. When death usually happened on the show, usually the bad guys did the killing, and when West often did kill someone, it was because he had no other choice. Ironically, all the fighting is why people demanded the show be canceled, though in all honestly there wasn’t a whole lot of killing, in fact shows like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Rifleman, The High Chaparral, etc. had far more deaths each episode than the Wild Wild West per season. Granted, sometimes it was nice seeing the bad guy get the ultimate comeuppance, but I more often I find it a lot more refreshing to see them get the ever loving crap beat out them as their taken to jail.

Only a true fan of 'The Wild Wild West' can score 8/10 on this quiz
Some of the Noted Guest Stars (from MeTV)

The show also broke ground by having several high profile actors and actresses make guest appearances. Legends like Boris Karloff, Sammy Davis Jr., Ida Lupino, Peter Lawford, Agnes Moorehead, and Jackie Coogan all became known to future new audiences thanks to the series. Future successes like Robert Duvall and Richard Kiel had some of their earliest big time gigs with the series that would lead to more work and their eventual work with The Godfather and James Bond franchises respectively. For stuntmen, working on the Wild Wild West meant for good paychecks as Robert Conrad would sometimes get to fight up to 20 men for the stunt fights, some guys appearing in multiple fights per episodes.

(I missed out on doing this post last year thanks to the craziness of COVID, but better late than never. What great childhood memories this show has for me, and will continue to have. I highly recommend the show. seasons 2 and 3 in particular as they have some of the cleverest stuff. It’s just pure all around fun. I know Robert Conrad had some regrets with the show, claiming after it ended that no other producers took him seriously for more character driven roles, but I still thank him for the hours of entertainment and joy he gave me and probably loads of other boys over the years )

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Filed under: TV: Analysis/Overview, TV: Special Topics

Murder by the Clock

by Tony Nash

(WordPress Follower Appreciation #3: Debbi-IFatM)

(All Opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

The Big Clock (1948) - IMDb
Original Poster

The Big Clock (1948) ***** PG-13

Ray Milland: George Stroud

Charles Laughton: Earl Janoth

Maureen O’Sullivan: Georgette Stroud

George Macready: Steve Hagen

Elsa Lanchester: Louise Patterson

Harold Vermilyea: Don Klausmeyer

Dan Tobin: Ray Cordette

Rita Johnson: Pauline York

Harry Morgan: Bill Womack (as Henry Morgan)

Richard Webb: Nate Sperling

Elaine Riley: Lily Gold

Written by: Johnathan Latimer, based on the novel by Kenneth Fearing

Directed by: John Farrow

Synopsis: George Stroud is struggling to save his marriage when his wife accuses him of fooling around and being a yes man for his megalomaniac newspaper boss Earl Janoth. When Janoth’s mistress reveals she’s been fooling around on him, he kills her in a rage. Wrongly believing Stroud is the other man, Janoth has evidence planted to incriminate him, and goes so far as having Stroud look for “the killer”. When Stroud discovers the truth, a race ensues to prove his innocence.

Blu-ray: The Big Clock review - brilliantly constructed comedy noir, ripe  for rediscovery
Stroud on the Case (from The Arts Desk)

The Post WWII Years are considered the beginning of pure Film Noir, the mix of light and shadows, and peoples uncertainty of who could be trusted as trust and loyalty were shattered by war time actions becoming the forefront of the genre. The Big Clock was a unique piece in the Post War era as it mixed the unease of the time with the classic procedural detective stories of the 1930’s and early 1940’s, making for a concoction that’s both thrilling and immersive. A talented writer’s gotten stuck in a lingering funk as he’s torn between continuing a well paying but overwhelming job, and saving his loving but strife’ d marriage. His life takes a whirlwind shock turn when his boss murders his two-timing mistress and, believing the writer is the other man, frames him for the crime. To make matters even stranger, the tyrant killer sets it up so the writer will discover he’s been framed by giving him the job of “finding the killer”. The entire film becomes of a mix of detective style investigative drama and mystery suspense as the boss and his henchman look to prevent the reporter from finding out he was framed and exposes his boss for the crazed tyrant he is.

Blu-Ray Review | The Big Clock (Blu-ray) | Blu-ray Authority
Stroud in Hot Water After a Bender (from Blu Ray Authority)

Ray Milland offers up a solid and nuanced performance as George Stroud. While a good guy for the most part, Stroud lacks the ability to decide between what is right and what is necessary for his personal ethics and life. He’s a talented writer wasting his time in a “yellow journalism” paper that also acts as a gossip column While his newspaper reporter’s job offers a nice salary to keep a roof over his and his wife’s head, the ridiculous hours and assignments he’s often given, leave him little opportunity and time to be the devoted and loving husband he desires to be. His wife, while supportive and sympathetic, constantly harangues him for thinking more of his job than of her, even though his job is what keeps them in house, food, and clothing. That Stroud can’t seem to reconcile both worlds makes things a lot tougher, and the strain of being unable to prove his devotion to the woman he loves, almost leads him astray. When he innocently flirts with a woman who ends up being the newspaper boss’s mistress, and who is later murdered by the magnate, Stroud inadvertently gets mistaken for the “other man”, and must use his wits and ability as a reporter to prevent his boss from successfully making him look guilty of murder and infidelity.

OZU TEAPOT — The Big Clock | John Farrow | 1948 Charles...
Janoth Is Calmed by Hagen (from OZU TEAPOT Tumblr)

Charles Laughton, one of Hollywood’s most prolific and versatile character actors, gets his magnum opus of slimy villainy as Earl Janoth. Janoth is a Hearst style newspaper magnate in that he’s ruthless, cunning, and will make his employees do whatever it takes to get a story out. He makes a huge mistake however when he falls for an equally devious woman who manages to put one over on him and makes him look like a fool. Enraged, Janoth coldly murders her and, thinking his ace reporter is the other man and saw what had happened, uses his power and influence to make the man the patsy in the woman’s death. Letting the reporter believe he has to solve the murder because of how close to home it hits the paper, Janoth sets up a wave of planted evidence, false leads and witnesses, and a false suspect to be found, all in hopes the police will be led to the reporter. Unbeknownst to Janoth, the reporter has figured out his scheme, and soon plans are unraveling as Janoth tries to stay two steps ahead.

THE BIG CLOCK (1948) - Comic Book and Movie Reviews
An Eccentric Artist Helps Stroud (from Comic Book and Movie Reviews)
The Big Clock - The Big Clock (1948) - Film -
Hagen, Janoth’s Right Hand (from Cinemagia)
Test DVD - La Grande Horloge (The Big Clock) 1948 - Carlotta Films * Film  Noir CineFaniac - Tout sur les films noirs
Stroud and His Wife (from Cinefanatic)
The Big Clock (1948) Film Noir. Harry Morgan, John Farrow | Film noir,  Noir, Film
Janoth’s Silent Henchman (from Pinterest)

A slew of Golden Age actors and actresses join Milland and Laughton in the whirlwind mystery Thriller. Maureen O’Sullivan, known to many as the mother of actress Mia Farrow, came out of retirement at director/husband John Farrow’s (Mia’s Dad) request to play Stroud’s loving and supportive, but frazzled wife Georgette (what a pun there huh?). Sullivan mainly plays the typical loyal wife who has her reserves, but Sullivan always played whatever part she got with believability. George Macready, who could play both good guys and bad guys, does a fantastic job as Janoth’s secretary and partner in crime Steve Hagen. Hagen, who at times feels he’ll forever be in Janoth’s shadow, ends up being the weak link in Janoth’s scheme when jealousy and betrayal circle into bigger problems. Elsa Lanchester, one of the quintessential British character actresses, whose fame was cemented as The Bride in 1936’s Bride of Frankenstein and later in 1964 as Katie Nanna in Disney’s Mary Poppins, gets to ham it up well as the bohemian artist Louise Patterson. A painting of Patterson’s proves vital in helping Stroud prove his innocence, and she tags along in the investigation to not only help Stroud, but get his aid in locating her long runnoft husband. MASH fans will be pleasantly surprised to learn that Harry Morgan, credited as Henry Morgan, plays a fairly big part in the film as Janoth’s brutish enforcer Mr. Womack. Morgan doesn’t speak at all in the film, but his facial features give away a ruthless tough who’ll do what he’s told, and do it well.

The Big Clock (1948) - John Farrow - RoweReviews
Stroud Stays a Step Ahead (from RoweReviews)

The film for a time was in a limbo before actually starting production. Author and poet Kenneth Fearing wrote the main villain of the book, Earl Janoth, as a blatant caricature ripoff to Time Magazine publisher Henry Luce, who had given Fearing loads of grief when Fearing’s financial troubles forced him to take a job with the magazine. Paramount Pictures bought the rights to the book before it even hit stores, but had to wait to greenlight it until critic reviews came out, and were fearful of the project going down in flames should Henry Luce decide to sue Fearing for slander and defamation of character. To everyone’s sigh of relief amazement, Luce didn’t make the connection between Janoth and himself, and Paramount greenlight the film.

The Big Clock (1948) - John Farrow - RoweReviews
A Night View of the Outside of the Janoth Publication (from RoweReviews)

In spite of fears of the author being sued, the creative issues between director Farrow and Paramount Producers, and usual on set antics of the cast, The Big Clock is still one of the best Post WWII era Noirs, and showcases the uncertainty of that trying period.

(A great Noir Thriller that movie fans should check out at least once, and another high recommendation from this author. Anyone new to Noir will find this film a good starting point to begin, and long term fans of the genre will find it the perfect film to frequently revisit. The plot and action have the hallmarks of an Agatha Christie story, but the cinematography definitely makes it a proper Noir. The Blu Ray from Arrow Video’s Arrow Academy Line offers up a solid transfer in the both the video and audio of the film, making it look exactly as it did in 1948. I dedicate this one to the lovely and wonderful Debbi, who runs the blog I Found It at the Movies. Her Blog does a varied amount of content, but her main interest seems to be Noir and Gangster movies, and I figured this film would be the perfect compliment to show my appreciation for her following my blog.)

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Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Analysis/Overview, TV: Analysis/Overview

Serpico’s Romano Double

by Tony Nash

(WordPress Followers Appreciation #2: Diary of a Movie Maniac)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

(Review is of the original Italian language version)

シゲボー on Twitter: "Bruno Corbucci/ THE COP IN BLUE JEANS (1976) #crime  #comedy #drama #trailer #MoviePoster …… "
Original Italian Poster

Tomas Milian: Maresciallo Nico Giraldi

Jack Palance: Norman Shelley/Richard J. Russo

Maria Rosaria Omaggio: Signorina Cattani

Guido Mannari: Achille “Baronetto” Bertinari

John P. Dulaney: Ispettore Ballarin

Marcello Martana: Maresciallo Trentini

Roberto Messina: Commissario Tozzi

Raf Luca: Brigadiere Gargiulo

Jack La Cayanne: Colombo

Written by: Mario Amendola & Bruno Corbucci

Directed by: Bruno Corbucci

Synopsis: Nico Giraldi, head investigator of the Anti-Mugging Squad, is determined to bring down the elusive gang leader Baron, whose broad daylight robberies have spiked ten fold. When Baron and his boys steal a briefcase full of smuggled money from an incognito American gangster, Giraldi now must save Baron’s life when he and crew are marked for death the man. Torrent download
Giraldi berating a subornment for letting his bike be stolen (from Rarbg)

Bruno Corbucci, the younger brother of Sergio Corbucci, made a clear break from the elder’s shadow with the first in a series of tongue-in-cheek action cop films starring the great Tomas Milian that fast became one of the most popular franchise in the 70’s. The film came about after Milian expressed admiration of Al Pacino’s look and performance as real life undercover cop Frank Serpico a few years earlier. Milian had in fact wanted to do a sequel playing Serpico, but copyrights prevented this from happening, so Corbucci drafted a treatment with Milian playing a reformed hoodlum now working as a cop who models his appearance after the film about Serpico. The Poliziotteschi film genre was still at its peak by the time the first Giraldi film was written and being shot, but Corbucci, Milian, and writer Mario Amendola decided to make the film a little more lighthearted than its edgy predecessors and contemporaries, mixing the exciting action everyone expects of the genre along with witty dialogue from the protagonist. This allowed the film to stay true to its origins, but at the same time spice it up enough that it wouldn’t be viewed as another generic entry.

The Cop in Blue Jeans review - The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Giraldi and his partner Ballarin (from Grindhouse Cinema Database)

Star Milian makes excellent use of Roman slang in this film, one of the earliest in his uncredited contributions to the films he made. While he was proficient in the usage of Roman street lingo, Milian’s Cuban accent didn’t fit, so he asked comic and film dubber Ferruccio Amendola to be his permanent Roman voice. Amendola and Milian already had a contract for this, but as Milian added more Roman slang for his characters with the directors and screenwriters permission, Amendola’s voice fit what Milian had envisioned.

The Cop in Blue Jeans - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia
Giraldi chases after a suspect (from Alchetron)

Milian delivers a unique performance in the role of Nico Giraldi. Normally very animated whenever he plays a character in a film, Milian keeps a straight face this go around, even when clearly delivering some amusing dialogue. Giraldi is an ex small time hoodlum who uses his street smarts in his new profession as a plainclothes motorcycle detective handling street crime. Giraldi feels the only way to stop the rampant stream of daylight robberies via crooks on motorbikes is to take down the head man, known only as Baron. His superiors aren’t crazy about many of the methods he uses, particularly cuffing suspects via looping their one arm between their legs so they can’t run, but because of his dedication to cleaning up the city and being knowing the mind set of criminals from having been one once, they allow him to operate how he feels best. It isn’t long before Giraldi discovers he has to save Baron’s life before he can arrest him when the hoodlum and two of his crew nab a briefcase full of illegally imported money from a corrupt American living in Italy, and the man orders his goons to hunt down and kill the thieves. What follows for Giraldi is an interesting and different journey through the world of fencing and smuggling, hoping to get to his long time quarry before an even deadlier criminal can get his hands on him.

Index of /images/abcd/cop-in-blue-jeans
The elusive Mr. Shelley (from Severed Cinema)

Jack Palance, an American character actor who had a 40 plus year career, enjoying success in both the States and Europe, appears sporadically, but effectively when on screen, in the role of Norman Shelley, sometimes called Richard J. Russo. Little is known of what Shelley does for a living, save that he’s seen with some big business types, so he must be into something lucrative. In reality, he uses whatever he does as a cover for many an illegal activity, including laundering money and smuggling. Like a Mafia boss, Shelley doesn’t take betrayal and deceit lightly and does whatever it takes to ensure loyalty. When one of his consignments is lifted from him by the gang led by Baron, Shelley, to keep his real dealings secret, orders his cohorts to track down and silence everyone involved in the theft. His cover is soon to be blown however, when Inspector Giraldi’s Anti-Mugging unit suspects something big when the hoods involved with Baron start turning up dead.

Cop in Blue Jeans – Cineploit (BluRay) – 10,000 Bullets
Giraldi visits his Aunt (from 10KBulletts)

The beauty of Milan is on display in the film, and unlike most other Poliziotteschi, the film shows the everyday areas of the city, not the seedy ends. The criminal element is still shown, but not in a way that would make those who’ve never been to Italy leery about carrying around anything valuable for street punks to steal.

Index of /images/abcd/cop-in-blue-jeans
The Baron is in over his head (from Severed Cinema)

The mix of action and humor works very well in this film, and allows viewers to root for the cops to win via a lighthearted escapade that still pumps out the thrills all cop films are known for.

(Fans of Italian Crime cinema and fans of Tomas Milian will get a kick out of the film and find it very enjoyable from start to finish, and I highly recommend it. Those wishing to get started with the genre will find this film a good place to start as it has all the themes the Poliziotteschi offers, minus the heavy edges fans will want to slowly get into. The Blu Ray from Cineploit Records offers a solid transfer of both the audio and visuals of the film, almost pristine. An hour long interview with character actor John P. Dulaney who plays the small supporting role of Ballarin is the main extra on the disc, and very worth a look in its own right as an insight into the studio system in Italy from the point of view of an actor who worked there. This write up is dedicated to Eric Binford – Diary of a Movie Maniac, who does quite a bit of crime, action, and Noir on his blog. I will admit I had intended to include Squadra in my Italian Crime series, but seeing how it had a much more lighthearted and less edgy feel, than others of the genre, I felt this would be something right up Eric’s alley and allow me to give the film a good expose.)

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Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Special Topics, TV: Analysis/Overview

The Crippen Case Romanticized

by Tony Nash

(Forgotten TV Gem Part 6)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoilers Ahead)

Lady Killers (TV Series 1980–1981) - IMDb

Ladykillers: Miss Elmore (1981) **** TV-14

John Fraser: Dr. Hawley Harvey “Peter” Crippen

Hannah Gordon: Ethel Le Neve

Alex Johnston: Mr. A.A. Tobin

Lewis Flander: Mr. R.D. Muir

Alan Downer: Chief Inspector Dew

Lewis Shaw: Justice Lord Alverstone

Joan Simms: “Belle” Elmore (Mrs. Crippen) (voice)

Donald Eccles: Dr. A.J. Pepper

Andrew Johns: Dr. B.H. Spilsbury

Hosted by Robert Morley

Written by: Edwin Pearce

Directed by: Nicholas Ferguson

Synopsis: A dramatic retelling of the case of Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, an American doctor living in London who was executed for the murder of his dance hall stage wife.

PD James on Dr Crippen

The Mini Series Lady Killers went through a rehaul when Granada greenlit a second set of 7 episodes. This time the series focused on famous murder trials in which women were the victims. The cases ranged from crimes of passion to jealousy to money to revenge, and usually where a man was the culprit. The first episode of the new series tackled one of the first major crimes in the first years of the 20th century, the case of American born doctor Hawley Harvey Crippen. Crippen was suspected of, and later arrested for, the murder of his wife Cora, who professionally was known as Belle Elmore, a stage actress. The case became an immediate sensation in England, and abroad, due to Crippen purportedly dismembering her body and then burying it in the cellar. Things became worse for the doctor when he attempted to flee the country with his secretary and lover Ethel Le Neve. The use of radio and telegraph by the captain of the ship Crippen boarded made history, and became a technique adopted by police as a tool in tracking suspects connected to various types of crimes. The public’s interest in the case was primarily in Crippen’s personality as he was quiet, unassuming, and even a little mousey, that people couldn’t believe so gentle looking a man could be capable of such a horrid act. Crippen’s insistence up until he was executed that he didn’t kill his wife became another sensation of the time.

Photo John Fraser

John Fraser, a fairly well noted British character actor, gives a powerful and poignant performance as Dr. Crippen. Fraser almost perfectly emulates Crippen’s quiet demeanor, completely calm, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that he killed his wife. Surprisingly, after he was arrested and brought to trial, Crippen never once denied that he had fallen out of love with his wife and had fallen in love with Ms. Le Neve, only that he regretted putting her unfairly in the spotlight via his decision to flee, and that he didn’t have the courage to divorce his wife when he had the chance. Fraser gives Crippen a kind of quiet dignity in that he cares more for Ms. Le Neve’s welfare than his own, having seemingly fatally accepted his fate. Fraser even gives audiences a deep insight into Crippen during the scenes in his cell as he awaits execution, his emotions so high from the realization of his predicament that his jailors become genuinely worried he’s nearing a mental breakdown and is suicidal. Fraser shows, via a restless dream of Crippen’s, that his wife was both a verbally and physically abusive woman, who wanted to torture her husband into staying with her.

Upstairs Downstairs' Hannah Gordon admits she can't bear fame as ...

Hannah Gordon gives an equally eloquent performance as Ethel Le Neve. Le Neve as well, was more concerned for the welfare of Crippen than her own well being, though it’s shown early on her mind and body were having trouble dealing with everything, however hard she tried to remain string for the man she loved. Gordon never gives any indication that Le Neve was aware that Crippen may have killed his wife, although she was very aware that Mrs. Crippen was a vindictive and cruel woman who constantly tortured her husband into a frenzy. That she tries to remain hopeful and tries staying strong for Crippen’s sake is intriguing.

Hawley Harvey Crippen | American murderer | Britannica

The secret life of Victorian killer Dr Crippen's mistress revealed ...

Quite a bit of the facts in the Crippen case in the episode are highly overexaggerated or nearly fabricated. Ethel Le Neve never once visited Crippen while he was in prison, nor did she make any statements declaring any permanent romantic ties to him. In reality, once Crippen was hanged, she fled England and never once spoke of Crippen or her involvement with him ever again and her death was almost completely ignored by the international press. Also unmentioned was the revelation that evidence was planted by the initial investigators in order to arrest Crippen, though by the time the episode was made, the public became forgiving, believing the men only acted in what they were certain was the stopping of a heinous criminal. Host Robert Morley’s statement that Le Neve was pregnant with Crippen’s child at the time and that the baby is full grown is a complete fabrication, Le Neve wasn’t pregnant.

July 22, 1910: Murderer Dr Crippen caught by international ...

In a bizarre sense of irony, since the episode’s filming and release, evidence was discovered in the 90’s and 2000’s that cleared Crippen of his wife’s murder. When the DNA evidence in the Scotland Yard Museum was re-examined with modern technology, it was discovered the remains weren’t those of Mrs. Crippen, leading to speculation that she did in fact abandon Crippen and disappeared and cold heartedly allowed him to be hung for her supposed death. For a period of time it couldn’t be determined if the remains had been in the Crippen home before they took up residence or if a patient of Crippen’s had died and, in a panic, he buried the body. The former seems to be the consensus as since Crippen’s reputation had already been ruined, a confession of the accidental death of a patient wouldn’t have added much to the happenings.

The History Press | The notorious case of Dr Crippen

Dr Crippen Murder: Chamber of Horror | The Unredacted

While little is accurate historically regarding the episode, it still offers a compelling look at a man who, at the time, no one could fathom how he could commit such a horrible act of murder. That he cared more for the safety of the woman he really loved and that she not be dragged through the mud made him a little sympathetic.

(Even though it mainly fictionalizes the events presented, this is still a good episode to watch as it does give interesting insight into Crippen’s mindset and what he must have been feeling as he was on trial for his life and the composure he was able to maintain in public, only to humanly break down in his cell and show the audience he was indeed afraid as anyone would be in such situations.)

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Hawley Crippen

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For the complete series, please see my Marguerite Alibert post



Filed under: TV: Analysis/Overview, TV: Special Topics

Was it Murder or Suicide?

by Tony Nash

(Profiling a Forgotten TV Gem 5)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers) Ladykillers - The Complete Series 1 [DVD]: Movies & TV

Lady Killers: Miss Madeleine Smith (1980) **** TV-14

Elizabeth Richardson: Madeleine Hamilton Smith

Ian McCulloch: John Inglis

Philip Voss: Auguste de Mean

Walter Carr: Prosecutor James Moncreiff

David McKail: The Rt. Hon. John Hope

Joan Scott: Miss Altken

Eleanor McCready: Mrs. Jenkins

Elaine Wells: Miss Mary Arthur Perry

Hosted by Robert Morley

Written by: Susan Pleat

Directed by: Joan Kemp-Welch

Synopsis: In March of 1857, Glasgow heiress and spinster Madeleine Smith was arrested and placed on trial for the murder of her blackmailing lover.

Lady Killers (1980)

The Lady Killers Mini Series goes for something a little bit different this time, re-enacting a murder trial that took place in Scotland. With Scotland as part of the British Commonwealth, court trials were conducted in the same manner as the Old Bailey in London. The episode also marked one of the earliest instances that a member of the upper class was put on trial for a crime. Heiress Madeleine Smith, whose family was very prominent in Scottish and British society, caused a considerable media sensation with not only having a lover in spite of already being engaged to a prominent businessman, but also purportedly having murdered the lover when he threatened to expose their affair to her father if she didn’t end her prearranged engagement and make her relationship with him public. The case was noted for having lasted 9 days and the press’s statements the case was open and shut with not only Miss Smith’s letters to the deceased, but also the eye witness accounts of a lady friend of the dead man confirming he feared Miss Smith would try to kill him.

Elizabeth Richardson

Elizabeth Richardson, another of England’s talented stage and screen actresses, give an intriguing performance as Madeleine Smith.  Richardson plays Smith as a charming and witty beautiful lady in spite of historically being a spinster woman, albeit one with charm and enigma. While never denying she had a romantic liaison with the dead man in question, she was firm in her insistence it was merely a last effort at a romance before fully committing herself to her fiancé in marriage. She also doesn’t deny having asked for the risqué letters she wrote to the dead man, but insists her wanting them back was more for to permanently end her association with the man rather than because he threatened to publicly humiliate her or blackmail her family. Richardson adds something unique to her performance in that as Smith sits in the defense box, she gives the viewers her thoughts on the testimony via voiceover narration, sometimes stating her surprise at someone not remembering something she told them or how they should know her better than saying a complete falsehood in regard to it. Richardson’s most interesting scene is when she uses her charm to convince a local barrister to keep on as her defense counsel.

Ian McCulloch (actor) - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

Ian McCulloch, a Scottish character actor known mainly for his brief work in Italian Gore films from 1979 to 1980, has a small role as one of the many witnesses to testify in Smith’s case. While he only appears briefly, he still does very well in his part.

Historic Scottish unsolved murder mystery cracked at crime ...

Much like with the case of Ruth Ellis, host Robert Morley appears between certain points in the episode to give the audience extra facts in the Madeleine Smith’s trial. With Smith’s high society background, that she was put on trial like any common criminal was a sensation of the period, even more so that her family notedly distanced itself from her while she was in confinement. It’s never specified if Madeleine was an embarrassment to her family, or if Scotland didn’t have the same elitist attitudes its sister nation England did, as to why she was allowed to faced public trial, but the mere fact she did made the case all the more fascinating.

The Case of Madeleine Smith by Rick Geary

An interesting historical note is the conflicting evidence in regards to how the poison was administered to the dead man. Some made the claim that Smith gradually poisoned him over a period of time while others claim the dead man had an addiction to a substance that contained the same ingredients in the poison and that he sometimes took heavy doses. Even more interesting is that the people speaking of the dead man’s consistent taking of the unnamed concoction is not only their insistence of having seen him do it, but some even mention him saying he enjoyed taking the stuff without worry of consequences. A combination of this and fairly radically different forms of testimony in regards to other aspects of the case is what gave the trial its very unusual conclusion.

The case of Madeleine Smith - Dangerous Women Project

While a little clunky at times in its presentation of the facts and some of the performances, the Madeleine Smith episode is still quite interesting in the showcase it presents of a court trial that had so much differing information and motives that it was nearly impossible to decern what was to be taken seriously or be disregarded all together. While not a bungle in that the courts did everything right in its presentation of evidence and testimony, but that how reliable much of what had been presented was becomes the real question and reflection in the time century and a half since the trial. Miss Richardson gives a very convincing performance, though how accurate she is to the real-life woman may end up being a matter of individual opinion.

(A very watchable episode and not the complete clunker the reviewers on the IMDB make it out to be. It can be a little stiff, but it still has its intriguing moments and Elizabeth Richardson gives a very good performance as the title character, offering a nice mix of mystery and intrigue.)

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Filed under: TV: Analysis/Overview, TV: Special Topics

They May Have Hung an Innocent Woman

by Tony Nash

(Profiling a Forgotten TV Gem 4)

All opinions are of the author alone)

(Major Spoilers ahead, read at own risk)

Lady Killers (1980)

Lady Killers: Don’t Let Them Kill Me on Wednesday (1980) ***** TV-14

Rita Tushingham: Charlotte Bryant

George Baker: Sir Terence O’Connor, Q.C.

John Woodnutt: Mr. Justice McKinnon

Colin George: Christopher George Arrow

Paul Arlington: Mr. J.D. Casswell

Patricia Heneghan: Ethel Staunton

Veronica Doran: Lucy Ostler

Peter Kelly Leonard Parsons

Karen Cuff: Lily Bryant

Stephen Cuff: Ernest Bryant

Hosted by Robert Morley

Written by: Jeremy Sandford

Directed by: Valerie Hanson

Synopsis: In 1935-1936, Irish Gypsy immigrant Charlotte “Lotte” Bryant was arrested and tried for the murder of her husband Frederick by poisoning. The case later became controversial when evidence was ignored that proved the deceased died through uncontrolled arsenic addiction.

Rita Tushingham in Lady Killers (1980)

Probably the most controversial case in the history of Britain, and one that left the country with an unfair blackeye concerned another Irish woman, Charlotte Bryant. Bryant had much going against her within the trial: not only was she Irish, she also had Gypsy blood, an ethnic group with a shady history, a history of repetitive infidelity and flirtations, and was completely illiterate. The prosecution did everything in its power to show Bryant as an amoral, cold-calculating murderess who intended to run off with her live-in lover after killing her husband, in spite of having children already. It became clear however, midway through the trial, that certain things just weren’t adding up. Stories were conflicting via both Bryant’s purposed lover, who was also married, and a widow friend Bryant offered shelter to, who admitted to having clashed with the dead man over her and her own children having taken up residence. Some evidence crucial to the case was outrightly dismissed and the jury was encouraged by the Justice himself to remember Bryant’s past history, though only the last few years had any real relevance to the case at hand. Soon people were beginning to wonder if an innocent woman was about to go to the gallows.

British 60s cinema - Rita Tushingham

Rita Tushingham, a British character actress known primarily for her important role in David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago, gives a compelling and thought-provoking performance as Charlotte Bryant. Tushingham portrayed Charlotte as a simple woman who may have indeed strayed quite a bit from her husband, but was very much a devoted mother and seemed to take religion seriously. Silent for most of the trial, Charlotte appears to be bewildered by all of what’s said about her by people she thought liked her. What makes her compelling is that she never actually denies having had several affairs and even found Parsons attractive, and tries her best to be honest with all the questions presented to her. Tushingham shows Charlotte as breaking twice during the trial: when her own son and daughter are asked questions in relation to their father’s death and when she hears the damning verdict of the jury. Tushingham shows off very well the extent of Charlotte’s illiteracy in that she has to ask several times about the questions put to her by both her attorney and the prosecution, clearly having no knowledge of how poison is supposed to work.

Charlotte Bryant | Photos | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers

Not long after Bryant’s conviction, information was given to the press about the findings of a second physician who discovered the doctor consulted by the prosecution had made a huge error in the amount of poison in Frederick Bryant’s system. This information, along with more inquiries by a local Suffragette leader discovered Frederick had become addicted to a narcotic heavily laced with ingredients used in arsenic, which also accounted for his previous attacks of illness. The presiding Justice was also openly accused of influencing the jury into accepting information that had no bearing on the case. The prosecution refused to accept the 2nd opinion to their expert’s mistake. The most damaging evidence of tampering by the courts was the omittance of the name of the person Charlotte confessed was the catalyst in her husband’s death. This led many to believe that Charlotte only looked the other way when her husband was killed, and not directly responsible for it. Opinions have varied as to whether Charlotte was a scapegoat in the government’s increasing action against the rising IRA terror group or if England’s strong elitist influences saw her as nothing more than a discardable guttersnipe.

So do YOU think these early 20th century murderers were guilty ...

Host Robert Morley, in a rare end of episode appearance, appeared to get choked up when discussing Charlotte Bryant’s final days before her execution. Whether he felt her conviction shameful and his country’s failure to uphold the law a disgrace is left up to viewer opinion in interpretation of how he speaks and his body language, but it is clear that many lost some faith in the courts after the new information became public knowledge.

The Hidden History Blog : The Life and Death of Charlotte Bryant

A case in which the conviction may have been a mistake or a deliberate act of a miscarriage of justice that will never truly be known makes for compelling drama and intriguing mystery. A rare case of where the viewer must draw his or her own conclusions.

(I found this episode very emotionally engaging, and is certainly a must watch for the series. As the episode got closer to the conclusion, I began to realize just how much was really against Charlotte Bryant, and how her unsavory past really played against her. I do believe she had knowledge her husband was killed, but wasn’t a directly involved player in the crime, and that her background as a poor Irish Catholic really had a lot to do with the court’s perception of her. The exceptional acting by everyone involved in the episode, especially star Rita Tushingham, evokes this highly and beautifully.)

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For more information

Please see my Marguerite Alibert post for buying options

Filed under: TV: Analysis/Overview, TV: Special Topics

She Faced Death With Dignity

by Tony Nash

(Profiling Forgotten TV Gem 3)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoilers Ahead)

Georgina Hale in Lady Killers (1980)

Lady Killers: Lucky, Lucky Thirteen! (1980) ***** TV-14

Georgina Hale: Ruth Ellis

Roberta Taylor: Roberta Martin

Edward Hardwicke: Prosecutor Christmas Humphries

Robert Flemyng: Mr. Justice Havers

Bernard Horsfall: Melford Stevenson, Q.C.

Jane Lowe: Edna Baker

Andrew Johns: John Bickford

Michael Johnson: Desmond Cussen

Hosted by Robert Morley

Written by: Frances Galleymore

Directed by: Nicholas Ferguson

Synopsis: Ruth Ellis stuns the British judicial system by not only pleading guilty to the murder of her lover David Blakely, but also demanding to be executed. Ellis also made international news by being the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

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Lady Killers hit a high mark with its third ever episode by profiling Britain’s most famous trial of the mid-20th century: the day long trial of night club operator Ruth Ellis for the blatant murder of racecar driver David Blakely. In a move that even the courts were taken aback by, Ellis not only pled guilty to the murder, but demanded that no appeals be made by her solicitor and barrister and to be executed as soon as possible. Since Ellis’ guilt wasn’t in doubt, the episode instead focuses on attempts by her closest friend, her barrister and solicitor, and even members of Britain’s court system to find out why Ellis made no attempts to at least get her sentence reduced to life in jail. As the episode progresses, audiences and characters alike become attached to a very strange woman who seemed to know exactly what she was doing by accepting to be hung for her crime of passion and facing it with a type of quiet dignity. Even stranger is the empathy and sadness viewers and characters start feeling for her.

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Host Robert Morley, who normally only appeared at the beginning and sometimes at the end of the episodes with information and facts, this time around makes frequent appearances between certain scenes discussing Ellis and her trial. This is no real surprise given the high notoriety the case received from the press, but also the history the trial made as after Ellis was hung, the Parliament, the monarchy, and even the judicial system itself abolished the death penalty for female prisoners.

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Georgina Hale, a fairly well recognized British character actress, gives the performance of a lifetime as the tragic Ruth Ellis. Ellis appeared to be a very worldly and practical woman, and Hale portrays that very well. What made Ellis standout from most of her contemporary and predecessor murderesses, was the complete calmness she displayed during her arrest, imprisonment, and trial, almost as of she was expecting everything to go as it did. Why she decided not to fight for her life, or why she wouldn’t give any details regarding how she came to find Blakely and kill him, and who may have supplied her with the gun would for some time be a mystery until way after her death, but Hale hints in her performance that Ellis didn’t want to get anyone associated with her, especially her son, more attention than was necessary, feeling this was her burden alone. Hale also plays up Ellis as a woman to be respected, as even the prison warden and bailiffs seem to have developed a kind of friendship with her, trying to make what little time she has left as pleasant as possible. The dignity Ellis displays and emits is almost overwhelming, almost as if she was a kind of martyr, acting out an almost cold rationale, as if she wanted to die.

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Several other noted British character players, including Edward Hardwicke (son of Sir Cedric, and the primary Dr. Watson of Granada’s Sherlock Holmes franchise), Robert Flemyng, and Roberta Taylor, all play characters either completely bewildered, or indifferent to Ellis’ unusual demeanor as she goes from prison, to the defendant’s block, to the Gallows. Some characters can’t comprehend why she committed the murder, while others can’t comprehend why she won’t defend herself and is almost fatalistically resigned to facing the hangman’s noose. Some try to at least get her to leave a record of what really happened, so as her son could go through life knowing his mother wasn’t the monster the press and others made her out to be. The latter does succeed as Ellis does indeed want her son to know the truth, but forces the promise of others that he’ll only see it after she’s gone. Even with this uncertainty, characters can’t help but feel a kind of admiration for Ellis.

Image result for ruth ellis caseBluntly honest and unafraid to treat the case exactly how it played out in the eyes of the press and public, Lucky, Lucky Thirteen! succeeded in showing audiences how good Lady Killers was as a series, and while each case was not as enticing or as dramatic as others, could still prove to be interesting to both history buffs and film buffs.

(This episode is another one I would consider giving a view of, primarily for Georgina Hale’s wonderful performance as Ellis. Certainly not as frank as some of the other episodes of the series, the Ruth Ellis case was a turning point in the world history as the death penalty for female prisoners was abolished not long after her execution, an act that would soon be carried over to male prisoners, and would make its way to the States. One of the few heart felt episodes where the viewer can feel a kind of empathy for Ellis as she had some regrets for her actions, but also realized it was better to pay for her crime rather than to make a plea she didn’t feel worthy of.  The episode has its moments of age over the years, but the quality is still very good.

all images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

for more information

Go to the Marguerite Alibert case post for DVD buying options

Filed under: TV: Analysis/Overview, TV: Special Topics

The Devil in a Deceitful Body

by Tony Nash

(A Forgotten TV Series Part 2)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

(Author’s Note: Like with the first installment, stills from the real case will be used as no stills from the episode exist. Also, while I don’t go into any graphic detail, some may find the details and instances of the case presented to be a little unsettling and even disturbing, so anyone who is sensitive and squeamish may want to skip this one.)

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Lady Killers Episode 2: Not for the Nervous (1980) ***** TV-14

Elaine Page: Kate Webster

Michael Kitchen: Reverend Father M’Enery

Peter Sallis: Mr. O’Brien

William Wilde: Barrister Warner Sleigh

T.P. McKenna: Sir Hardinge Giffard, Q.C.

Leslie French: Mr. Justice Denman

John Fraser: John Church

Harry Littlewood: Henry Porter

Hosted by Robert Morley

Written by: Arden Winch

Directed by: Valerie Hanson

Synopsis: Irish criminal Kate Webster faces trial for the murder of her aged employer Mrs. Julia Thomas in 1879. Considered the most sinister murder case prior the White Chapel/Jack the Ripper Murders a decade later.

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Lady Killers second episode explored one of the first murder cases to cause mass debate and discussion among the populace of Britain, and its surrounding areas. Irish immigrant Kate Webster, having to leave her homeland due to her criminal past and the mass potato famine, was arrested for the murder of her employer Mrs. Thomas. The evidence presented by the prosecution and witnesses revealed a sordid and horrific act in which Webster is said to have attacked Mrs. Thomas, killed her, and then proceeded to dismember her body. Webster maintained her innocence throughout the trial, claiming she was forced into the act by an old boyfriend and the patriarch of a family she’d known for several years, and insisted her belief in God would never lead her to such actions on normal grounds. Since she was indeed Catholic, the courts allowed her the benefit of religious council and brought in a priest from a small community to advise her spiritually and care for her young son. When it becomes clear, Webster’s accounts change too much, even the Priest begins to suspect something, and warns her to be honest with him. The question that remains is, can he handle her confession?

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Elaine Page, a character actress known for her comedy and broadcasting career, gives an understated dramatic performance as Kate Webster. Webster was indeed a two-faced woman, devout and even a little superstitious in her Catholic upbringing, a loving and caring mother, but at the same time very manipulative and deceitful. While seemingly friendly towards the people who tried to welcome her warmly, Webster clearly displays an erratic behavior that has her lying one minute, and telling the truth another. Page shows off Webster as a self-loathing woman, hating to constantly be reminded of her humble origins in Ireland, having to steal because her family was too poor for most necessities, and forced to endure the harsh criticisms of her British neighbors for her heritage. Her actions become even stranger when she states she had no interest in taking the deceased’s expensive jewelry, which would’ve got her safe passage abroad. Page’s acting leaves the viewer constantly wondering if Webster truly hated doing what she had to do in order to survive, or if her circumstances finally pushed her to a point where she no longer cared, or if there was an evil inside Webster that she herself couldn’t understand, or even saw as normal behavior for someone like herself.

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The remainder of the cast, including Peter Sallis and Michael Kitchen, deliver fine supporting and secondary roles in the episode. All of the characters, particularly Father M’Enery, are often at odds with themselves because, on the one hand they believe in Webster’s sincerities, but at the same time constantly feel that there’s something the woman isn’t telling them. The crime itself has them all baffled as it was committed with such intricacy and sadism that whoever the killer was had no morality or decency in them. They also ponder why Webster accuses someone as forcing her involvement in the crime, then changing her story, or why none of Mrs. Thomas’s jewelry was taken given Webster’s past as a thief. As more and more truths come to light in the trial, either inadvertently, or because Webster was caught in a lie, everyone begins to sense something more sinister to the crime, and to Webster herself.

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Host Robert Morley only states in the opening that the trial of Kate Webster caused a salacious and scandalous amount of talk in the wake of her conviction and execution, and it’s actually better he only stated that aspect, because as the episode unfolds and audiences see Elaine Page’s acting and her monumental confession scene, the truth of the murder and trial becomes more potent than if Mr. Morley had hinted what of viewers of that time and now would see unfold. The revelations are frank and to the point with nothing held back, and leaves those who watched it, bewildered, unsettled, and even a little afraid.

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While the premiere episode about Marguerite Alibert was anti-climatic to audiences, the case of Kate Webster proved the series had much to offer in its handling of the various murder cases it would present for the next year and a half. Handled very much like a stage play as it goes from set to set, and of course the fine acting from all the players, the plot slowly unveils the true nature of the case and its prime suspect with sublimity and finesse, leading the viewer step by step to an unflinching conclusion.

(I highly recommend this one as the ending really is one you don’t see coming until the last five or ten minutes of the episode and does leave you heavily shaken and scared. Elaine Page does a fantastic job as Kate Webster as audiences don’t know whether to believe or despise  her for her actions and manner. For anyone who enjoys true crime stories, this one would not only be up your ally, but it would also be the most true to form depiction of a court case ever brought to screen. The episode has its flaws in the transfer as it was videotape and at points you can the aging process occur, but is still very clear, and the lighting does add to the mood in the non court scenes.)

all images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

for more information

(please see the Marguerite Alibert episode post for the DVD options)

Filed under: TV: Analysis/Overview, TV: Special Topics

The Worldly Woman & The Prince

by Tony Nash

(Profiling a Forgotten TV Gem 1)

All opinions are of the author alone

(Spoilers ahead)

(Author’s Note: Little to no stills exist for the episodes of this series, so save for promotional stills of the main characters, all photos will of the real life people)

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Lady Killers Episode 1: Murder at the Savoy Hotel (1980) TV-14 ****

Robert Stephens: Sir Edward Marshall Hall, K.C.

Barbara Kellerman: Princess Madame Marie Marguerite Fahmy

Charles Kay: Sir Henry Curtis Bennett, K.C.

John Horsley: Mr. Justice Rigby Swift

Susan Wooldridge: Janet Cole

David Buck: Percival Clarke, K.C.

Edward Hammond: Roland Oliver

Lewis Flander: Said Enani

Hosted by Robert Morley

Written by: Helena Osborne

Directed by: Philip Draycott

Synopsis: Ex-Prostitute turned Princess Marie Marguerite is on trial for the murder of her husband, the Egyptian Prince Ali Fahmy Bey. Defended by the famous barrister Sir Marshall Hall, her case is primarily focused on Ali’s reported abusive and decadent behavior towards her.

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Before the British TV company Granada became famous for the Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes, one of its first touches of notoriety came from the Mini-Series Lady Killers. Initially focusing on infamous murders committed by women in the late 19th to mid-20th century, then on murders of women by both genders, the show was the first of its kind to present true life murder cases as close to historical accuracy as possible, often very unflinching and frank in the process. Veteran British character actor Robert Morley acted as the host of each episode’s beginning, sometimes offering a voice over at the end of further information of the case post trial.

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The Series’ premiere episode told the case of Marguerite Alibert (called Marie Marguerite in the episode) a French prostitute who stunned the world when it was announced she had married the Egyptian Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy. The rocky marriage, said to often include acts of physical abuse, bizarre sexual acts, and even sadism, became public knowledge very quickly, with rumors arising Ali cheated on Marguerite constantly and treated her like personal property rather than a wife. A heated argument in London in July of 1923 led to what was initially deemed an accidental shooting when Marguerite believed her life was in danger, shooting her husband three times with a gun she thought empty. What followed was one of the most discussed, bizarre, and intriguing trial of the day in London. The Prosecution argued Marguerite intentionally killed her husband as she was after his fortune, along with a document she failed to read properly stated under the law of Islam she couldn’t divorce him even with grounds, and that he purportedly denied her inclusion in his will. The Defense argued Marguerite was in constant fear of her life, that the gentle and charming man she first met changed into a beast that took every opportunity to force himself on her and commit acts of violence and debauchery, Marguerite finally having enough and acted completely in defense of her safety. The question remained, which story is true?

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Robert Stephens, one of Britain’s most prominent stage, film, and TV actors, gives the performance of a lifetime as the barrister Sir Edward Marshall Hall. Stephens depicts Hall as the English equivalent of many an American lawyer character on TV, with the flamboyancy and theatrics to go along with it. His team of fellow lawyers often try to reign him in during the episode, constantly telling him he could go too far in his conducting examinations, and surely get his client the death penalty. Like any lawyer, Hall tries not to think about his client’s innocence or guilt too much, but with Marguerite, he appears totally convinced she didn’t deliberately murder her husband. Hall appears to have a bias when it comes to the late Prince Fahmy, clearly expressing a very anti-Arab sentiment whenever he has the opportunity to make the dead man out to be a brutal savage trying to behave European. Very intense and methodical in his handling of witnesses, he uses both wit and plain speaking in discrediting his opposition. His opposing barrister, his team, and even the presiding Justice of the case are both impressed and confounded by his method of conducting his case, but feel he is a competent and fair-minded attorney.

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Barbara Kellerman, an actress only known by UK fans, delivers a quiet, but telling and convincing performance as Marguerite. Not being familiar with English customs or etiquette, Marguerite spends the majority of the trial sitting back and watching as her barrister tries to prevent her getting the death penalty or life in prison and as the prosecution tries to paint her as a cold blooded, non-feeling gold digger out to get prominence and money. Her behavior is generally shown through her interactions with the lady bailiffs between court sessions as a kind of quiet acceptance of what she must go through, but attempts to stay positive with encouragement from the one bailiff. When the time comes for her to tell what had occurred between herself and Ali, Kellerman goes into a melodramatic tirade of emotions as she expresses how she loved her husband, but at the same time was appalled by his change from gentlemanly to animalistic in only a short amount of time. The crescendo being when she described when she fired the gun, even then begging Ali to forgive her for not realizing the gun was still loaded, but also asking why he had to be so cruel to her is where her testimony gets a little laughable in how emotional she gets.

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While Host Morley states in the opening that the trial’s lengthy documentation had to be condensed to fit the hour time slot, quite a bit of important information was left out in the episode:

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Marguerite’s attorney Sir Marshall Hall spent a good bit of his cross examination of Ali’s male secretary making innuendoes that the two men engaged in a homosexual relationship. The public reasoning for this tactic was to discredit Ali’s character as an adherer to Islamic law and custom, thus giving Marguerite cause to wish to divorce him and her fears of his fetishes, but the real reason appears to have been that homosexuality was seen as a crime way back then, and a sin punishable by death under the edicts of Islam, thus making it possible he was looking for either Ali’s family to have the trial stopped to protect their standing in Egypt or to have the government stop the trial out of fear of an international incident.

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Marguerite was known, by rumor at the time, to have had an affair with Edward VIII, then the Prince of Wales, while he was stationed in France during WWI. Edward had made the mistake of writing very intimate and colorful letters to her while he was away on maneuvers, and Marguerite was noted to have kept all the Prince’s letters. Sources are certain Marguerite intended to blackmail Edward should Sir Marshall Hall’s defense prove faulty, and soon the Old Bailey was receiving orders the prosecution be denied the ability to question Marguerite about her past, specifically her life when she was a prostitute in Paris,  noted for engaging both male and female clients, some with very “eclectic” tastes. Today, many believe the government ordered the trial expedited to save the Prince’s character and reputation, which ironically would be destroyed by his actions during WWII.

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The Male-Female jury in the filmed version of the case is wholly fictitious. The real-life jury in Marguerite’s trial was made up entirely of women, all in their late teens to early 20’s, and were ordered to ignore the prosecutions references to Marguerite’s character and what was declared irrelevant evidence.

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Morley, in his closing narration, states that little was known of Marguerite after the Egyptian courts denied her claim to half of Ali’s estate. This is also untrue. Marguerite returned to Paris where she maintained a fairly comfortable lifestyle and kept the title of Princess, even appearing in some French films of the late Silent and Early Sound periods. After a libel suit that didn’t go her way made her a laughing stock in France, Marguerite retired to seclusion at her apartment in Nice until her death in 1971. She never had a second child after her first, though she did in fact destroy the letters from Edward VIII.

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While a little clunky in parts as there wasn’t enough time to utilize all the fascinating information associated with the case and focused mainly on the actual court room proceedings, the Murder at the Savoy Hotel is a good starting point episode to an interesting series that recreates some very fascinating, and at times disturbing, cases that rocked the whole of the United Kingdom. Main stars Stephens and Kellerman may go a little into overboard theatrics while some smaller characters can be a little stiff, is done fairly well by episode’s end and leaves the viewer satisfied.

(I do highly recommend giving this series a try as it does present the cases they chose to dramatize fairly well, even though some information had to be condensed to fit the hour time slot. History buffs, Murder/Mystery buffs, and even Courtroom Drama buffs will find something to enjoy about the series overall. The Stage Play atmosphere of the episode is also very creative and brings something unique and different to the series that was seldom done elsewhere. The DVD from Network Entertainment offers the best possible presentation of the episodes as some do have slight to them and fair audio transfers.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners, including the IMDB

For more information

This video from ObsoleteOddity of YouTube and Vimeo offers more detailed information of the Case

(I’m including both sites version of the video as I imagine people may prefer one over the other)

Buying options

Filed under: TV: Analysis/Overview, TV: Special Topics

Barnabas Collins is Much Better Than Edward Cullen!!!

by Tony Nash

(The Month of Hammer Horror Special)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoilers may be present)

(This one I dedicate to my Mother, who gave me my love of the series, whom I binge watch this with from time to time, and is one of her own childhood favorites)

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Dark Shadows (1966-71) ***** TV-PG

Jonathan Frid: Barnabas Collins, Bramwell Collins (Parallel Time)

Joan Bennett: Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Naomi Collins, Judith Collins, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Parallel Time), Flora Collins, Flora Collins (Parallel Time)

Alexandra Isles: Victoria “Vicki” Winters #1 (as Alexandra Moltke)

David Selby: Quentin Collins II, Grant Douglas, Quentin Collins II (Parallel Time), Quentin Collins I, Quentin Collins I (Parallel Time)

Grayson Hall: Dr. Julia Hoffman, Countess Natalie Du Pres, Magda Rakosi, Julia Hoffman (Parallel Time), Dr. Julia (Hoffman) Collins, Julia Collins (Parallel Time), Constance Collins (Parallel Time)

Nancy Barrett: Carolyn Stoddard, Millicent Collins, Charity Trask, Pansy Faye, Carolyn Stoddard Loomis (Parallel Time), Letecia Faye, Melanie Collins (Parallel Time), Amanda Collins (Parallel Time)

Louis Edmonds: Roger Collins, Joshua Collins, Edward Collins, Roger Collins (Parallel Time), Joshua Collins (Parallel Time), Daniel Collins, Amadeus Collins, Brutus Collins (Parallel Time)

Kathryn Leigh Scott: Maggie Evans, Josette Du Pres Collins, Rachel Drummond, Lady Kitty Soames Hampshire, Maggie Evans Collins (Parallel Time)

Lara Parker: Miranda Duval/ Angelique Duval Brochard Collins Rumson/Cassandra Collins/Valerie Collins, Angelique Stokes Collins (Parallel Time) Alexis Stokes (Parallel Time), Catherine Harridge Collins (Parallel Time)

Thayer David: Matthew Morgan #2, Ben Stokes, Professor T. Eliot Stokes, Sandor Rakosi, Count Andreas Petofi, Timothy Eliot Stokes (Parallel Time), Mordecai Grimes, Ben Stokes (Parallel Time)

Jerry Lacy: Tony Peterson, The Reverend Trask, Reverend Gregory Trask, Mr. Trask (Parallel Time), Lamar Trask

John Karlen: Willie Loomis #2, Carl Collins, William H. Loomis (Parallel Time), Desmond Collins, Kendrick Young (Parallel Time)

Diana Millay: Laura Murdoch Radcliffe Stockbridge Collins

Dennis Patrick: Jason McGuire, Paul Stoddard

David Ford: Sam Evans #2, Andre Du Pres

Roger Davis: Peter Bradford, Jeff Clark, Ned Stuart, Dirk Wilkins, Charles Delaware Tate

Joel Crothers: Joe Haskell, Lt. Nathan Forbes

Don Briscoe: Thomas “Tom” Jennings, Christopher “Chris” Jennings,  Timothy “Tim” Shaw, Chris Collins (Parallel Time)

Humbert Allen Astredo: Nicholas Black, Evan Hanley, Charles Dawson, Great-Grandfather Dawson

Lisa Richards: Sabrina Stuart, Sabrina Stuart (Parallel Time)

Mitch Ryan: Burke Devlin #1 (as Mitchell Ryan)

Anthony George: Burke Devlin #2, Jeremiah Collins

Robert Rodan: Adam

Clarice Blackburn: Mrs. Sarah Johnson, Abigail Collins, Minerva Trask

Dana Elcar: Sheriff George Patterson #1

Christopher Pennock: Jebez “Jeb” Hawkes, Dr. Cyrus Longworth (Parallel Time), John Yaeger (Parallel Time), Sebastian Shaw, Gabriel Collins, Gabriel Collins (Parallel Time)

Michael Stroka, Aristede, Bruno, Bruno Hess (Parallel Time), Laszlo Ferrari

Marie Wallace: Eve (Danielle Roget), Jenny Collins, Megan Todd

Addison Powell: Judge Matigan, The Voice of Jeremiah Collins, Dr. Eric Lang, Judge Wiley

Robert Gerringer: Dr. David “Dave” Woodard #2

Jim Storm: Gerard Stiles (Ivan Miller), Judah Zachary (while possessed), Gerard Stiles (Parallel Time) (as James Storm)

Kate Jackson: Daphne Harridge, Daphne Harridge Collins (Parallel Time)

Terry Crawford: Beth Chavez, Edith Collins

David Hennesy: David Collins, Daniel Collins, Jamison Collins, Count Andreas Petofi (while possessed), Daniel Collins (Parallel Time), Tad Collins

Denise Nickerson: Amy Jennings, Nora Collins, Amy Collins (Parallel Time)

Virginia Vestoff: Samantha Drew, Samantha Drew (Parallel Time)

Keith Prentice: Morgan Collins (Parallel Time), James Forthsye (Parallel Time)

Frank Schofield: Bill Malloy

Written by: Dan Curtis, Art Wallace, Ron Sproat, Malcolm Mamorstein, Sam Hall, Gordon Russell, & Francis Swann

Directed by: Dan Curtis, Lela Swift, Henry Kaplan, John Sedwick, & Sean Dhu Sullivan

Synopsis: Vampires, Witches, Warlocks, Werewolves, Ghosts, Occultists, and Satanists all ascend on the great estate of Collinwood, where the Collins family suffers a series of curses for past misdeeds. Only distant relation Barnabas Collins, afflicted with the Vampire Curse, is able to save his family from those who would destroy them.

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Long before Stephanie Myers conceived highly romanticized and enticing vampires and werewolves in her Twilight saga, there was the highly popular and well loved ABC Soap Opera Dark Shadows. Created by Dan Curtis as a homage to Gothic Literature, Gothic Films, Folklore, and Classic Movie Monsters, Dark Shadows was the only Soap Opera of the 1960’s to have an audience made up of teenagers and young adults due to its relevance of the re-emerging popularity of Horror films. Oddly enough the series started out as standard Soap Opera Melodrama with hints of the Gothic and Supernatural, but with encouragement from family and friends, Curtis slowly directed his writers into pure Horror based story-lines and characters. While the heroes and heroines remained the same, the villains were now vampires, witches, warlocks, werewolves, and ghosts, all still in the tradition of Simon Legree, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Larry Talbot.

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Originally the main focus of the series was Victoria Winters and her search for her true identity. Curtis always maintained his initial concept was a dream of a young woman entering a castle on a foggy night, with smatterings of Jane Eyre thrown in for good measure. As time progressed and more emphasis was put on homages to Universal Horror films, Victoria Winters primarily acted as the damsel in distress characters had to save from the machinations of evil characters. When actress Alexandra Moltke left the series to get married and have her son, the character was written out as deciding to live in the past with love interest Peter Bradford, seemingly stuck in suspended animation. Years after the series itself ended actress Joan Bennett told an interviewer that Victoria was to be revealed as her character’s daughter, whom she gave up for adoption. When the surviving cast gathered together for a special radio style drama reading to celebrate one of the show’s anniversaries,  in Elizabeth Collins Stoddard’s will, she confesses Victoria is in fact her oldest daughter and implores her other daughter Carolyn to find her and return her to Collinwood.

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What ended up making the show a hit, in spite of it’s initial star deciding to leave the series, was the casting of Canadian stage actor Jonathan Frid as the remorse-filled Vampire Barnabas Collins. Frid’s portrayal of Barnabas as a genuinely good man who made a brief series of poor decisions that led to his eventual predicament made him not only a romantic figure for a generation of young women, but a cultural icon for generations to come. While many may hold Frid responsible for vampires losing their fear appeal and turning them into Romantic personas, Frid never-the-less started a new trend of vampires who didn’t lose their humanity and retained a sense of sympathy from the audience. Ironically Frid had originally signed on only for a 13 Week stint as Barnabas and at the end was to be killed off, but the audience reaction to him was so positive that he was changed from a Soap Opera version of Dracula to a lovable and heroic selfless man who spent everyday atoning for his sins and mistakes.  After Frid’s introduction, a wave of other monsters graced the halls of Collinwood including witches, two Frankenstein like creatures, warlocks, Satanists, werewolves, etc. and made the show what it is today.

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Many venerable film and TV actors, previously well known and later well known, graced the series with their presence including Hollywood great Joan Bennett, Mitch Ryan, Dennis Patrick, Thayer David, John Karlen, Dana Elcar, Abe Vigoda, and Anthony George. Most of the cast however was made up of Theater performers like Nancy Barrett, David Selby, Jerry Lacy, Grayson Hall, Joel Crothers, David Ford, Lara Parker, etc, looking to branch into Television, some making it into other roles, others known only for the series itself. Kathryn Leigh Scott and Alexandra Molkte were recent graduates of the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts and Dark Shadows was literally their first acting roles ever. While some continued to later successes and others fizzled not long after the series ended, they are all still admired by fans past and present, and make appearances at the many conventions held yearly in honor of the series.

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With a cast made up of a plethora of Theater actors, the show developed a kind of repertoire feel and a continuous feel as well to it.  As Dan Curtis only had so much in terms of money to work with, the cast often found themselves playing their own ancestors or other characters in general when they entered into the past or other dimensions, which lended  to the show’s success in a big way. By having the actor’s play multiple roles, it made the universe they were in feel very real and very authentic. This also led people who enjoyed Theater as well to feel like they were watching a continues play that came on 5 days a week on TV, again giving more nostalgia as the years progressed. No other series, Soap Opera or otherwise had done it before or since, with the occasional exception here and there , and again adds to the uniqueness that has made it the classic it is.

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Time Travel, Science Fiction, Horror, Gothic Romance, and even some Comedy permeated the series and were used to great effect. The story-lines taking characters to the 1790’s, 1890’s, 1840’s, and even the 1680’s and 1660’s allowed viewers to get as realistic an interpretation as possible how people of those eras and periods behaved, interacted with each other, and even to certain extant, spoke. Everything from the clothes to the lighting, even certain euphemisms were done with as much authenticity without having the actors be in any kind of discomfort and disadvantage. The use of other dimensions, mad science, raising the dead, and creating new species all bring to life the world of Sci-Fi/Horror hybrid.  Science going in directions that would to man’s enslavement or demise wasn’t tackled too much within Dark Shadows, but was done enough that it allowed something different from the standard Horror affair. The works of the Bronte sisters, Stoker, Poe, Lovecraft, Stevenson, James, and even Wells abound in plot elements of the series, and offer their own unique twist on the classics.

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The only thing really to complain about with the series was the consistent continuity errors in terms of the historical timeline of it and the reference to past events. Things were constantly changing in terms of the character’s past, and events & lives changed as a result of what Barnabas and company was able to prevent happening in the past that directly affected the current state of the Collins family. With so much being fooled around with and changed, viewers and even the cast themselves were uncertain as to the proper history of the characters and of the events that occurred within. These errors tended to have the series get made fun of a little, but for those truly entranced by the series, these issues and glitches fade away and the show’s fine essence is all that matters.

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Whether people love it or hate Dark Shadows has withstood the test of time and brought new meaning and new ideas to the world of Horror and Gothic Drama and Fantasy. Rich characters and stories kept viewers tuning in every week for five years. Even when its decline became apparent with poor rehashing’s of previously successful plots, viewers still wanted to see what would happen to the residents of Collinwood, and remained loyal to the end. Syndication and fans wanting to see episodes on home media brought the show back from obscurity and has garnished an entire new generations of viewers and devoted fans. Actresses Kathryn Leigh Scott and Nancy Barrett have stated in interviews that the fans they meet always amaze them, some even going as far as legally changing their names to that of a member of the Collins family and in one woman’s case getting permanent fang implants from her dental surgeon. The fan base might be a little crazy, but it’s a love they don’t go overboard with.

(This is one series I can watch for hours and hours and not be bored with. I highly, highly recommend it for anyone looking for something totally different and unique that’s also a love letter to Classic Horror and the Gothic. The entire series is on DVD in single editions, and a giant boxset. I normally list the items for purchase below, but given there are over 30 sets of 40 episodes apiece, it would take too much time to sort it all, but feel free to check out Amazon, where the sets are between $25-$30. I also recommend checking out the first 209 episodes which pre-date the arrival of Barnabas, and are just as good. I also highly advise avoiding Tim Burton’s 2012 film version, as while he’s an admirable fan, his version does little justice to the classic original, and changes the backstories far too much)

All images courtesy of Images

For more information

IMDB/Dark Shadows 1966-71

Wikipedia/Dark Shadows 1966-71

The Dark Shadows Wikia


I also recommend checking out Kathryn Leigh Scott’s books about the series. She has chronicled her own life within the series, the series itself, and the popularity it has enjoyed throughout the years. The books are very good and Scott has some amazing stories to tell about her fellow cast members.







Filed under: TV: Analysis/Overview, TV: Special Topics