Tuesday, November 16, 2010

'Ellery Queen' is lost classic, lots of fun


Thanks to the greatness that is Netflix, I can rent some of these awesome TV series sets without breaking the bank.

Found out that an old favorite, the underappreciated “Ellery Queen” from the mid-1970s, has rolled out onto DVD. Culled it into my queue and watched the first disc over the weekend. Perfect fodder for a foggy night.

The gist of it is that Queen is a famous mystery writer (real books exist under that name, which is a nom de plume for two people) who helps his police detective father figure out fuzzy whodunits. Near the end of each episode, Ellery even breaks the fourth wall to ask the audience, “Do you know who the killer is?”

Jim Hutton (likeable later sidekick to John Wayne in several flicks) plays our hero. Veteran actor David Wayne plays his dad and even John “Jonathan Quayle Higgins” Hillerman shows up as a popular radio host. It’s a period piece set during 1947 and is a lot of fun. Well-known guest stars populate each episode.

It feels a lot like “Murder, She Wrote” sans Angela Lansbury and that’s so for good reason. “Ellery Queen” was developed by Richard Levinson and William Link, who later helped Peter S. Fischer create that classic. (They also created “Columbo” and “Mannix.”)

Don’t know why this one didn’t make it. It’s fun to try to outwit the detective and you’ve got to be awfully observant to do it.

Whatever the case, it’s worth a look, if you’re into this kind of thing.

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