Michael Shayne Mysteries – Volume One (Michael
Shayne, Private Eye/The Man Who
Wouldn’t Die/Sleepers West/Blue, White & Perfect)
Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: B- Films: B- each
Halliday (aka Davis Dresser, who penned most of the early books) created the
red-headed Irish gumshoe detective Michael Shayne by the late 1930s and he
debuted in print in 1941, the same year Fox and producer Sol M. Wurtzel (having
has hits with Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto) picked the character up for another of
their B-movie detective series. Though
not a long-term hit, Lloyd Nolan starred in the Fox series for seven films
before the studio folded it, though PRC picked it up with a different actor a
few years later.
in this new Michael Shayne Mysteries –
Volume One series are four of the first five films, as follows:
Michael Shayne, Private Eye (1940/41) is based on one of the
books as Shayne chases after a young, beautiful woman (Marjorie Weaver) with a
serious gambling problem. Any mystery
element is limited.
The Man Who Wouldn’t Die (1942) is more like it with
Shayne pretending to be the fiancé of a pretty young woman (Weaver in a
different role) who thought she saw a man try to kill her and shoot her, but
there is no bullet or evidence around until Shayne sees otherwise.
Sleepers West (1941) is based on the book
Sleepers East and adapted by Torchy Blane creator Frederick Nebel has Shayne
protecting a witness train-bound to San Francisco, juggling her and a female
reporter who might get them all killed.
This was the second film in the series.
Blue, White & Perfect (1941) has Shayne battling the
Nazis, hunting for diamonds and possibly taking on a mysterious man well-played
by a pre-Superman George
Reeves. What it lacks in suspense, it
makes up for in its propagandic angle and Reeves’ casting.
the films hold up well for their age, the series did not last because it tried
to do too much. It wanted to have
comedy, screwball comedy and the gumshoe approach on the way more seriously in
Film Noir while not taking the Mystery angle seriously enough. That was a mistake, as there was not enough
seriousness for it to hold up against Detective Noir or enough Mystery for the
audience (pre-Noir) already there.
really good in the role, though even he altered the character as he went
along. The result is a series that shows
the transition between Detective genre and Noir, which is not totally a genre
to begin with no matter what you have been told otherwise. The result is an uneven series that never got
to establish itself despite so much promise.
However, these are interesting enough to watch, inconsistent as they
X 1 black and white image on all four films have been restored nicely thanks to
the hard work of Fox’s film archive efforts.
I have not seen these since the early 1980s and they have not looked
this good for twice as long. The Dolby
Digital 2.0 has two versions, one original mono and the other stereo-boosted
sound. The combination can show its age,
with the mono sound sometimes working better than stereo, but you can try them
out yourself to see your preference.
all four titles include the restoration comparison with text explanations, as
well as featurettes. The Detective Who Never Dies is on Private Eye, The Art Of Robert McGinnis: Mike Shayne & Beyond is on Die adding a stills gallery of his
amazing work, Follow That Lead! is an
odd-but-amusing interactive text feature on West and Perfect offers Nabbing Crooks The Mike Shayne Way.
again, Fox delivers a great set of their classic detective films and let’s hope
they don’t stop until every last one has been restored and issued.
- Nicholas Sheffo