Thursday, November 6, 2008


“Professors work with their heads. Cops work with their feet.”


A bleach-blonde bimbo on a date with the bottom of a lake, CSI: Fantasy Island, a greedy, conniving and doddering Bride of Frankenstein, a Harvard Prof with a keen eye for murder and brilliant pipes, a killer who needs a stern talking to, and no smiles for anyone.

More info here.


A desperate bar girl (Jan Sterling) is sick and tired of her tawdry lifestyle and rings up her married lover with an ultimatum. When he rebukes her, she picks up a drunk who owns a car and drives over to her hitched boyfriend’s home to confront him. She ditches the rummy at a gas station and he walks home. And in typical unsavory noir morality, it’s revealed that the guy was getting hammered while his wife was in the hospital in labor. The hot-under-the-collar hotty meets her lover in the wilderness outside his home, but instead of a ring, roses, and dropped-pants, she’s confronted with a barrel of a gun. The shadowy murderer then dumps her body and the car into a lake.

Months later, a skeleton inside a submerged car is found around the coasts of Cape Cod. The case is assigned to Portuguese-American detective Lt. Pete Morales (Ricardo Montalban) who takes full advantage of solving the case to save his floundering career breaking small capers in the sticks. Seemingly hitting a brick wall, he reluctantly consults a forensic scientist at the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard, the silly-named Dr McAdoo (Bruce Bennett). In a very cool sequence, McAdoo’s staff analyzes the skeletal remains using slides and projections and determines that the remains belong to the missing woman from the opening of the movie. But it’s not just science that helps the investigation. Morales pounds the pavement with old-fashion case-cracking skills, finds the owner of the car, and arrests the unlucky drunk who ditched his pregnant wife, Henry Shanway. McAdoo disagrees with Morales’ suspicions that Henry’s the trigger man, Henry escapes custody, and things get really complicated when the dead girl’s snoopy landlady (Elsa Lanchester) knows the real killer and initiates a blackmail scheme that can’t end well for anyone.


Mystery Street is a killer B-movie, a nifty little criminal procedural with an unmistaken hint of noir atmosphere. All of the principals present effective, low-key performances, especially Montalban who is probably one of the most underrated actors of his time. The always reliable Lanchester is over-the-top as the despicable, immoral blackmailer and Bennet is unflappable and determined as the stern but masterful scientist McAdoo. Director John Sturges and cameraman John Alton present a fine paced mystery graced by superb cinematography in the classic sense of noir. Perhaps most remarkable is the surprising amount of early forensic science that was balanced against traditional detective work. Strurges displays the science in small, visionary doses that maintained interest and generally just wowed me. Montalban and Bennet work so well together that I wished this could have become a franchise of detective stories. Mystery Street is an excellent, peppy whodunit, with fascinating visuals, sharp dialogue, and an investigation team that’s far more interesting that anything Jerry Bruckheimer has to offer.

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