|Jim Hutton as Ellery.|
Donald Cook and comedian Eddie Quillan each made one EQ movie in the 1930s. In 1940, Columbia launched a modestly-budgeted film series with Ralph Bellamy as Ellery Queen. He starred in four entries before being replaced by sturdy William Gargan for the final three films. On television, Lee Bowman, Hugh Marlowe, and George Nader each starred in three different TV series in the 1950s. NBC tried to launch a new series in 1971 with Ellery Queen: Don’t Look Behind You, which featured a miscast Peter Lawford as a writer-detective with an eye for the ladies (we'll review this movie later this week).
|David Wayne as Inspector Queen.|
Link and Levinson also made one significant change from the novels. They expanded on Ellery's rather dry personality by making him occasionally absent-minded (about routine things) and a bit of a bumbler. Even if their Ellery Queen wasn't a straightforward adaptation of the novels, it still captured their spirit and also wisely set the mysteries in the 1940s. Here are my picks for the five best episodes:
|Edward Andrews and Larry Hagman.|
|Swofford as Frank Flanagan.|
3. The Adventure of the Blunt Instrument - After winning the prestigious Blunt Instrument Award for best mystery fiction, author Edgar Manning is found dead--with the trophy for his award apparently used as the weapon. Yes, there's some amusing humor in this outing, with much of it coming from people who suggest various remedies for Ellery's head cold. Many episodes incorporate clever 1946-47 references and this one has one of the best: one suspect's alibi is that he was attending a double-feature of She-Wolf of London and The Spider Woman Strikes Back, two films actually released in 1946.
|A nice shot of father and son.|
5. The Adventure of the 12th Floor Express - The publisher of the Daily Examiner arrives at work, steps into the executive elevator, pushes the button for the 12th floor, and is found shot dead on another floor. Like some of the best mysteries, the solution to this murder is a simple one--but that's the beauty of it. Ken Swofford is back as Frank Flanagan and the plot makes excellent use of the newspaper building setting. This episode was one of three directed by Jack Arnold, who is best-known for the 1950s science fiction classics The Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.
Honorable Mention: The Adventure of the Sunday Punch, a strong, well-written teleplay set in the world of boxing. Please don't make anything of the absence of episodes featuring John Hillerman as radio detective Simon Brimmer. Indeed, I thought Hillerman was a delight in all eight episodes in which he appeared.
This post is part of the Classic TV Detectives Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Click here to check out the other posts.