Mystery/Suspense – Kenneth Branagh plays Mike Church, a know-it-all LA private eye who specializes in missing persons, in the 1991 film Dead Again. The film also stars Emma Thompson, Andy Garcia, Derek Jacobi and Robin Williams. Emma Thompson plays a woman that is suffering from amnesia and having recurring nightmares about a murder. The movie starts out seeming like a quiet, ordinary mystery but suspense builds throughout and the climax is a real finger-nail biter.
The movies haven’t all come from novels, but they are outstanding examples of mysteries on the silver screen.
An Agatha Christie classic – Miss Marple is portrayed by Angela Lansbury in the 1980 film, The Mirror Crack’d. As usual, the film is studded with performances by a multitude of stars, Geraldine Chaplin, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak and Elizabeth Taylor. As usual, everyone has a reason to kill.
A good example of an English manor mystery – Gosford Park is a 2001 film starring Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon among others. It was nominated for a total of 61 film awards, worldwide, winning 25 of them.
Film Noir – Taken from a 1939 novel by Eric Ambler, The Mask of Dimitrios was released in 1944. Peter Lorre portrays a mystery writer trying to track down the history of a famous criminal, Dimitrios, whose body has been washed up on the shore.
The hard-boiled detective – No one played the hard-boiled detective like Humphrey Bogart. It’s hard to pick just one, but Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not is my favorite. This is the movie that started the love affair between Bogie and Bacall. It was her first film. The great scene where she says, “You know how to whistle, don’t you…” was her screen test and not even in the movie script, but it was such a great scene they put it into the film. And the rest is history….
A Police Detective – The 1971 film, The French Connection, was a fictionalized drama of two real NYPD detectives. It won 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and the Best Actor award for Gene Hackman. The car chase scene (actually a car chasing an elevated train) is one of best in film history.
After the bad guy is caught there is a trial – 12 Angry Men begins with the judge sending the jury off to deliberate the verdict in a murder case. It seems an open and shut case, but one juror believes the defendant to be innocent. This movie has been remade several times, but the best film is the 1957 version starring Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb. It is considered one of the best films of all time in any genre.
The historical mystery – The Name of the Rose takes place in northern Italy during the 14th century. Based on the book by Umberto Eco, this1986 film stars Sean Connery as the Franciscan friar William, Christian Slater as his apprentice and F. Murray Abraham as the representative of the Inquisition. The movie did poorly in the US for some reason but was widely acclaimed in Europe.
The Cozy Mystery – One doesn’t think of Alfred Hitchcock and the term “cozy mystery” together, I will admit. But Hitchcock’s 1955 movie, The Trouble With Harry, fits the bill. The ‘trouble’ with Harry is that he is dead. And his body causes a lot of trouble while folks figure out what to do with it! Starring John Forsythe and Shirley MacLaine, it was filmed in Barre, Vt., during a colorful autumn.
Sherlock Holmes – Most film critics consider The Hound of the Baskervilles as one of the classic movies of all time. And if you are looking for a film of an actual Holmes story it is the one to watch. For contrast, however, you might give the new Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law a try.
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