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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Detective > Gumshoe > Hard Boiled > B-Movie Series > Michael Shayne Mysteries – Volume One (Michael Shayne, Private Eye/The Man Who Wouldn’t Die/Sleepers West/Blue, White & Perfect)

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



Brett 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.


The films 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.



Though 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.


Nolan is 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 are.


The 1.33 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.


Extras on 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.


Once 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


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