Friday, December 06, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Murder is My Business (1946) - A ClassicFlix DVD Review

A few years ago I very much enjoyed Lloyd Nolan in 20th Century-Fox's Michael Shayne detective series.

Between 2011 and 2015 I reviewed Nolan in all seven of his Shayne films; links to my reviews may be found here.

I was thus delighted when I learned that ClassicFlix recently released a set of five additional Michael Shayne mysteries in "The Complete PRC Michael Shayne Mystery Collection."

The set, featuring Hugh Beaumont in the title role for low-budget studio PRC, is part of the ClassicFlix Silver Series of DVD relases.

As mentioned in my review of I MET MY LOVE AGAIN (1938) earlier this year, ClassicFlix describes the Silver Series in this way: "Knowing so many unseen and longed-for classics sit in studio vaults and other archives collecting dust, ClassicFlix established the Silver Series line to shine the light of day on such lesser-known titles by making them available in affordable DVD editions."

Silver Series discs are initially pressed, but when those supplies run low they may instead be released MOD (manufactured on demand).

The five Shayne films in the PRC set were released in 1946 and 1947. The first in the series, MURDER IS MY BUSINESS (1946), is a lively crime film which makes up for any lack of story-telling clarity by telling its tale with considerable energy in a brisk hour plus four minutes.

Those most familiar with star Beaumont from TV's LEAVE IT TO BEAVER may particularly enjoy seeing him in a completely different kind of role as a wise-cracking detective with a habit of leaving trails of peanut shells wherever he goes. I found the mess he made a bit baffling, but it's distinctive!

Wealthy Eleanor Ramsey (Helene Heigh) is murdered, and it's up to Michael Shayne to figure out whodunit from amidst a wide variety of suspects, including her husband (Pierre Watkin), unpleasant stepchildren (David Reed) and Dorothy (Julia McMillan), her brother (Lyle Talbot), and more. While working on the case Shayne tries to stay a step or two ahead of Detective Rafferty (Ralph Dunn), who finds Shayne an annoyance.

The movie was definitely made on a low budget; for instance, when Shayne gets into a car in front of the Ramsey mansion, he's clearly parked in front of a back projection. Similar techniques are used throughout the film, but in a weird way looking for the ways PRC cut corners is part of the charm.

Beaumont, Cheryl Walker as his "gal Friday" Phyllis, and Talbot as the ornery brother are particularly fun to watch. Some members of the low-budget cast like Heigh and McMillan I was frankly unfamiliar with, but then there's the always-reliable Virginia Christine (Mrs. Olson of Folger's Coffee, for those of you of a "certain age") doing a great job in a small, emotional part.

MURDER IS MY BUSINESS was directed by Sam Newfield and filmed in black and white by Jack Greenhalgh.

The DVD picture isn't great but is certainly watchable, especially considering this is such a low-budget movie. There are flaws, but even granting those, I honestly find it quite delightful that a rare film like this is available looking as good as it does.

More problematic is the soundtrack, with dialogue sometimes notably murky, such as in the opening scene where the lines are close to drowned out by the sound of the car's motor. The sound quality improves in some later scenes, but overall it was more of a strain for me to understand than is the case with the average DVD. (My hearing is admittedly not 100%, so "Your mileage may vary.")

All five films are presented on a single disc. The other films in the set are LARCENY IN HER HEART (1946), BLONDE FOR A DAY (1946), THREE ON A TICKET (1947), and TOO MANY WINNERS (1947).

An easygoing detective movie like this is just the kind of undemanding viewing I particularly enjoy at the end of a long day, and I'm looking forward to checking out the other films in the set.

Thanks to ClassicFlix for providing a review copy of this DVD.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older