Endeavour S4 Finale

DATELINE:  PBS Masterpiece

Shaun

 

Each season of Endeavour, the continuing prequel saga of Detective Morse, now in reverse order, has one superb episode that towers over the other excellent mysteries. The finale of S4 is top-drawer.

Endeavour is a prequel, of course, taking John Thaw’s original Morse back to the 1960s when he was a young investigator. The latest called “Harvest” starts with a 1962 murder that he opens as a cold case in 1967.

As usual, Roger Allam and Anton Lesser are around as Morse’s supportive superior officers.

In many ways this is the most modern episode so far: it deals with the red herring of an atomic energy plant emitting radiation. The tie to the murder of an Oxford botanist muddies the waters in a small town near the nuclear plant. Cleverly planted clues abound.

As a tarot card relates during the investigation, Endeavour (Shaun Evans) is facing “death,” in some form. He scoffs as that is his line of work, and the other insight is that he is unlucky in love. Yes, we’ve seen plenty of that over the four seasons.

This one hinges on autumnal equinox, which Morse notes is a scientific time, though cultists and local Stonehenge followers seem particularly in a state of high anxiety.

Entwined with the case, we have Morse’s complicated relationship with his superior’s daughter, which seemingly comes to a head. Alas, more information must await S5, which promises more episodes as this cast and storyline sharpens. We await more murders.

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Lady in the Lake: Under Water, but Not All Wet

DATELINE:  Hard-Boiled School of Detectives

Marlowe:Montgomery

You have to enjoy a murder mystery that is set on Christmas and begins with a potpourri of carols to set the mood. We laughed all too hard during the opening scenes: it’s witty, sharp, and clever. Lady in the Lake is a classic.

The Raymond Chandler story was directed by Robert Montgomery in 1946 with the star also briefly in front of the camera. Mostly, he narrates, keeping his face out of the limelight.

Lady in the Lake is quite inventive and will leave you quite impressed with Montgomery’s dry and cynical comments. However, this style tends to undercut the film noir aspect, as it is studio-bound.

Director Montgomery also suffers from low budget-it is that makes his original murder tale cut too many corners. We never make it to the lake to see the lady fished out, only hear about it. Yet, the quick pace will surprise you.

That too is part of the first-eye view of the film: we see only what detective Philip Marlowe sees—and characters look directly into the camera frequently as they talk to Montgomery. It is diverting and intriguing. Alas, the mystery itself is not clever enough to fit the film’s technique.

Cast is uniformly superb, especially Audrey Totter as the femme fatale, Leon Ames as her boss, owner of a lurid crime publication, and Lloyd Nolan as a dubious cop.

We must confess that light-leading man Robert Montgomery is not as tough as the Marlowes of Bogart and Mitchum, but his dry and cynical wit is hard-nosed enough to cause other characters to give him a sock in the nose more than once.

You will fondly remember Lady in the Lake for its originality and dark humor.

Lazaretto on Endeavour

 DATELINE: The Only Good Detectives are British

SE   Shaun Evans, Heartthrob

The third entry in this Endeavour S4 series takes superstition and murder to a hospital ward at Cowley General. It seems Bed #10 has suffered an inordinate number of deaths over the past six months.

When Superintendent Bright takes ill, he is transferred to the same ward where the mystery becomes unsettling to Morse (Shaun Evans) and the new acting Superintendent, Thursday (Roger Allam).

The 1960s are only slightly more evident in this episode, owing to the cars and less technological medical situations. As for the mystery, it is always clever to solve and filled with red herrings.

Set in Oxford, the cerebral capital of education seems rife with crime.

The usual suspects turn up, but it’s the usual members of the police investigation that always have a turn to remember. It’s a marvelous supporting cast, especially James Bradshaw as the creepy coroner who seems always to enlighten Morse with a witty clue.

Morse is known for his brainy solutions that even his Superintendent (Anton Lesser) has come to respect him.

Shaun Evans provides a boyish, though aging boy, who remains catnip to women. Indeed, the subplot of the series remains the bodies of women who have thrown themselves at him, including DI Thursday’s daughter who has left town because of Morse (more or less) as women continue to swoon over him.

Roger Allam as Thursday is not a saintly mentor and is not above using his contacts in the criminal world, nor showing a little tough love when he roughs them up. Beneath the barnacles, he is still a shrewd detective and a perfect foil for Endeavour.

The arc of the season is short, only four episodes, with one remaining, but already the show is renewed for a fifth season with a promised increase in the murder rate to allow for more mystery movies.

Thank heavens for good British detectives.

Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes

DATELINE:  No Deerstalker Here

Everett Holmes 

with Ian Hart as Watson.

We wondered back in 2004 why Rupert Everett’s fascinating take on Sherlock Holmes did not lead to a series. It was around the time that Jeremy Brett had passed on—and a new Holmes was certainly ripe for the picking.

Granada TV and PBS passed on Everett’s interpretation, much to our regret.

Instead, we had the dreadful Robert Downey movie version—and the marvelous updated Cumberbatch TV Sherlock.

Yet, for our money, the classic look and demeanor of Everett was delicious enough. In the Case of the Silk Stocking, not part of the canon, we had a story that was part of the problem. It dealt with sexual problems in the multiple murderer—and Holmes was brought up to date by Watson’s fiancée who now is an American psychologist.

The other problems with the story-line featured cruel mistreatment of women, largely teenage girls brutally killed in a fetish demeanor. Holmes does not help much with his misogynist attitudes that may be accurate, however off-putting. Indeed, when he intrudes on the bedroom one a teenage girl, it seems almost creepy.

On Rupert Everett these foibles work to the flaws of Sherlock.

Ian Hart’s Watson is a tad too smug, and Helen McCrory as his American spouse-to-be is too much a concession to political correctness.

We were delighted to see Michael Fassbender in an early, important role. But, the film belongs to Everett who makes Sherlock’s tired, drug-addled character quite intriguing. There is a sharp undercurrent of sexual malaise in this Holmes, played by the openly gay Everett.

What a shame he played the role only here. It’s a worthy effort in the history of Sherlock performances.

No Night Too Long for Suspense and Mystery

DATELINE:  Lee Williams: Full Frontal and Center

Lee Williams

At first glance, the murder suspense mystery No Night is Too Long, from 2002, seems like Hitchcockian crime drama, but deep down it is purely in the mold of James Cain, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice. Guilty parties are always caught for a crime they did not commit.

Tim, a beautiful bisexual college student, seems to attract people, including a young college professor and paleontologist. Their torrid affair is told in flashback, as Tim has murdered someone unknown in his narrative. Alas, he is being tormented by anonymous letters by someone who knows what he did.

And someone is stalking him too.

Lee Williams is perfect as the sociopathic lothario who admits to murder, but seems to be suffering guilt and blackmail.

If you want a gay subtext used as a key plot device, but miles ahead of your usual soap opera gay movies, then you could do with a dose of No Night is Too Long.

It’s not what you might expect.

Williams is hynoptic and equally adept in the sack with boys and/or girls.

Director Tom Shankland knows how to put together suspenseful mystery, and uses the setting of a tourist boat to the Alaskan wilderness as a fitting backdrop.

Your usual stereotypes are certainly undercut every step of the way, and suspects abound who seem to be even worse than Tim, the self-confessed killer.

How do these little gems fall off the radar? You might be put off by the sex motives, but the performances and storyline are utterly engaging. Supporting cast, including Marc Warren, all hit the right notes.

Look for this one.

Not John Wayne’s Searchers

DATELINE:  Ultimate Patsy

bocover Booth & Oswald

The 2017 documentary takes an unusual angle to examine the Kennedy Assassination by focusing on the many, many private researchers who have devoted their lives to uncovering the truth.

They have fought valiantly against slander, libel, and the CIA stooges who have denigrated their work. These include a mostly aging group, including forensic doctor Cyril Wecht, and the late searchers Mark Lane and John Judge.  These three exemplify a group that has taken on history’s blinders.

If you don’t think something is hidden, then you don’t know that most important documents are sealed for another 25 years. Most of the culprits who either were responsible for President Kennedy’s death, or covered it up, will be way beyond earthly justice.

The CIA has admitted there have been hundreds of journalists working for them, some exclusively on denigrating any attack on the Warren Commission, the voluminous monstrosity created by CIA Director Allen Dulles who hated the Kennedys. Trump is right about the fake news and corrupt media: it starts with the Kennedy cover-up with media plants.

The documentary takes direct aim at the excusers of conspiracy. Indeed, the notion of “assassination buff” or “conspiracy theorist” was coined by the CIA and its minions to put a negative connotation on those who disagreed that Oswald acted alone.

The documentary pulls no punches in putting a shame on Dan Rather for his early lies and Gerald Posner for continuing the sham.

Meticulous private investigators are now aging and falling by the wayside. It was the plan all along—when the heretics die off, all that will be left is the coverup story.

Fascinating compilation of searchers, researchers, and fading information is well-worth the attention of a new generation.

ultimate patsy

Penultimate Twin Peaks

DATELINE: Down to the Finish Line

peaked

We’re going round the bend, literally, and figuratively, on the new David Lynch marathon in surreality, Twin Peaks.

For sixteen hours we have seen Dead People, People from Another Dimension, Weirdos, and maddening loose ends as well as standard plot holes. That’s the bargain with Lynch.

The recent show has started to blow up loose ends and loose characters, thankfully not waiting until ten minutes before denouement to drive the entire cast off one of the twin peaks of the title. So, Kyle MacLachlan has snapped out of his doldrum-idiot Doppleganger Dougie, and evil D.B. Cooper has dispatched his illegitimate son with electrifying alacrity.

In the meantime, Lynch has discovered a new star, Eamon Farren. Let’s hope he fares better than Dana Ashbrook or James Marshall in the next 25 years.

What more can be expected? Oh, Cooper’s assistant, long lost Diane turns out to be some kind of spirit from beyond, her connection to Dougie’s wife, Naomi Watts, now ignored in a puff of smoke and gunfire.

We saw Don Murray, formerly the leading man for Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop, looking spry as he pushes 90 and thanked by Cooper for lending his old Hollywood fame to the tale.

There was a shoot-out in one of those foreclosed Las Vegas communities that didn’t make much sense. But, we never expect much sense.

When Cooper regains his wits, he is able to say, “I am the FBI,” with all the swagger fans of the show wanted to hear. Perhaps Sheriff Michael Ontkean will make an appearance in the final show.

Whatever will the final two-hour monstrosity of this TV Guernica give us? We know that Sherilyn Fenn has a revelation while looking in the mirror.

Twenty-five years passing will do that.

 

 

 

Endeavour: S4, E2, ‘Canticle’ & Bad Acid

DATELINE: Morse in Swinging Sixties

Shaun

Doing a period murder mystery set in the Swinging Sixties is not easy, but Endeavour makes it pop culture time. So much can be a tad off, like scruff on the band members which actually came along a few years later.

The episode recreates one of those “Hullaballoo” style dance numbers with garish colors and plastic slick clothes to open the proceedings.

Inspector Morse (Shaun Evans) is thrust into the turn of the musical screw when rock became the season of flower children. He must investigate the band called Wildwood, which resembles so many of those one-hit wonders in the era when LSD became the tripping drug of choice.

We certainly recall Jackie Gleason leading a crusade against the smut accusations against the Doors, and something akin parallels the latest episode when a young man may be sexually involved with a band member, giving us an early exponent of the groupie mentality. Prudish condemnation arrives from the older generation.

Morse in his blue suit is more a child of the 1950s as police detective—as his boss Inspector Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) fully epitomizes the gruff professional Scotland Yard type we have grown to expect.

The usual suspects are all present, but veiled appropriately from quick solutions to the crimes: the greedy business manager of the group, the female hangers-on of the band, an moralist crusader, and in-fighting boy band members.

Morse prefers Wagnerian opera to rock, but still manages to be sucked in by every woman who bats her lashes at him. It seems far more credible when one of the rock group’s sensitive song-writers flirts with him.

Don’t be fooled. A bad acid trip is not far off and could untrack the brilliant detective in another clever, fascinating murder mystery in the series.

If you have not discovered Endeavour, you have three full seasons to savor.

Farewell, My Lovely Film Noir

DATELINE:  In with a Bang

mitchum

One of the last of the great film noir in the classic tradition came out in 1975 with Robert Mitchum, one of the last dinosaurs of the original movement. This is called Farewell, My Lovely.

Based on Raymond Chandler’s Murder, My Sweet, the latest incarnation of the tale and character of detective Philip Marlowe has all the world-weary cynicism you’d have expected from Humphrey Bogart

Mitchum’s voice-over is so dry it will crack your lips.

You might think film noir cannot possibly be faithful with full color, but the production is so murky and neon with night that it might as well be inky grayscale.

To top it off, there is Charlotte Rampling looking for all the world like Lauren Bacall, seductive and untrustworthy match for Mitchum.

This time, the language and sexual situations are so modern that they defy anything that the 1940s created. Yet, it all fits, down to the hard-bitten police detective played by the marvelous John Ireland.

Poor Marlowe is shot at, slapped, drugged, kidnapped, and drinking up a storm. Indeed, one of the delightful goons is none other than a young stud, Sylvester Stallone, along for a hoot. The plot has more confused suspects than a month of Murder, She Wrote.

The dialogue is delicious. The murders are abundant, and the entire sense of corruption is so outrageous as to become entertaining.

Mitchum is not quite 60 in this film, but still has the tough guy in full throttle still under his belt. When he dons the trench coat, you may well squeal with delight.

What a movie!

Endeavour Morse Returns & “The Game” is On!

 DATELINE: Oxford Sleuth

 Endeavour 1

PBS has brought back another highly intelligent detective show for a fourth season, Endeavour. Of course, strawberry-blond Inspector Morse patrols the territory around Oxford University where culture and mayhem seem to go hand-in-glove.

Complicating matters is the fact the series setting is the 1960s. The new fangled technology is not yet upon Scotland Yard, and brainpower still reigns supreme. His nemesis at the station is a world-weary Roger Allam, always in rare form.

The first episode is called “Game” about early computers taking on Soviet chess champs.

Young Morse (Shaun Evans) is slight and, like all attractive Brit men, looks decidedly gay. Women do seem to like him, often to the detriment of his work, but Morse remains stalwart and impervious to their attentions, considering them impediments to crime resolution.

The latest case puts everyone in crisis mode: Morse’s superior has personal problems with his grown daughter moving away—and Morse’s attempts to try to achieve promotion seem thwarted by unknown forces.

He remains the most brilliant detective in Oxford, holding his own against Russian chess-masters, ruthless members of the media, and assorted weird supercriminals. The suspects in this go-round are professors, media snoops, and a smug best-selling novelist.

With a spate of peculiar drownings among an assortment of victims with not much obviously in common, Morse finds himself at odds with superiors and those who would undermine his talents.

You will find these short movies (90 minutes usually) a challenge to solve and admire the acting and the writing, lost arts in most films nowadays. There will be three additional episodes to consider.