Golden Age of Detective Fiction Forum

June 2, 2008

Favourite GAD film?

Filed under: Films,SS Van Dine — Jon @ 9:14 pm

It would interest me if other GADers would vote on their favorite mystery films, much as we recently did regarding members’ favorite “Father Brown” stories.

Let me start (if anyone’s interested in such a thread), by suggesting a film even older than “The Kennel Murder Case,” and that’s Fritz Lang’s 1931 classic, “M;” although I admit that it may not fit the criteria for a pure detective story. More recent films I enjoyed would be the 1974 version of “Murder on the Orient Express,” “The Usual Suspects” (1995), and “Murder by Decree” (1979). In the category of guilty pleasures, I’d even include “Malice” (1993).

Moreover, just to open myself to ridicule, I’ll also suggest a completely off-the-wall selection: A 37-episode(20-30 minutes per episode) anime (Japanese animation) series, “Death Note.” The synopsis of this series is bizarre and unique: a Japanese student finds a mystical book that lets him write the name of a person in that book, and as soon as he does, that person dies. This power quickly goes to his head, and to battle this brilliant megalomaniac, Japanese law enforcement hires an equally brilliant but enigmatic detective known only as “L.” The series is comprised of the extraordinarily well-written cat-and-mouse game between these two individuals. I dare you to rent the first DVD of this series–which contains the first four episodes–and not be hooked. But don’t confuse it with live-version movie, which–although I haven’t seen it — can’t be nearly as intricate; which is the chief allure of this series. Unfortunately, only the first 5 discs have been released in English, so I have no idea how this series will end. The full series will be 10 discs, released one disc at a time. The last disk will be released in spring 2009.

In any event, none of these films are necessarily my favorites — no doubt they’ll occur to me as soon as I post this — but they’re some that I’ve definitely enjoyed. I look forward to other opinions, if anyone cares to share.



  1. Hal

    You mentioned “Death Note”, and I decide not to lurk. Anime version of DN is much better than film, the rule of the special note book is fascinating and the very source of all the conflict between villain and police, villain and L, even L and police authorities. It is the brand new rule that brings a whole new life to traditional mystery story. I notice in nowadays Japan, many writers are trying to get rid of the old frame of writing by using this method – give the story a new rule while maintain the soul of pure puzzle plot. Can you imagine that a man died seven times? Or a world that personality can be transferred from one to another? I admit some most creative works are emerging in Japan these years. I recommend “Death Note” to all the GADers here.

    Best, Fei

    Comment by jonjermey — June 2, 2008 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

  2. My favorite mystery films are:

    And Then There Were None

    just to name a few


    Comment by jonjermey — June 2, 2008 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

  3. My top eight mystery films (and I’m talking pure puzzle plot here) have remained constant for the last quarter of a century — though my order of preference changes on occasion. They are:

    And Then There Were None – 1945

    The Kennel Murder Case – 1933

    The Last of Sheila – 1973

    Green For Danger – 1946

    Death on the Nile – 1978

    The Verdict – 1946

    Crime on the Hill – 1933

    The Phantom of Crestwood – 1932

    All EXTREMELY worth checking out, IMO, and only Crime on the Hill is particulary hard to find. I’m not exactly sure which two films would fill out my top ten, but they would be selected from the following list (also well worth seeing, a few of these are quite hard to find):

    Night Club Lady – 1932

    Affairs of a Gentleman – 1934

    The Westland Case – 1937

    Charlie Chan in Paris – 1935

    Murder on the Orient Express – 1974

    The House of the Arrow – 1952

    The Ninth Guest – 1934

    Zero Effect – 1998

    Crime of the Century – 1933

    – Scott

    Comment by jonjermey — June 4, 2008 @ 5:52 am | Reply

  4. My favorite films with elements of real mystery (mysterious situations that are solved by the film’s end) are at my film web site at:

    People keep praising “M”, a film made in pre-Nazi Germany by director Fritz Lang in 1931. The scientific detection in this film is fascinating. It seems to be the first movie ever made to show police lab work in detail. (The first Hollywood film made about scientific detection known here is “From Headquarters” (1933), made by another emigre from Germany, William Dieterle. Dieterle almost certainly knew M, which was widely seen in both Germany and the USA.) Fritz Lang is one of the world’s most admired filmmakers, subjects of many books. I wrote a book-length study of him too, available as a long, long web page:

    Pre-Nazi Germany (aka Weimar Republic) had a huge film industry, one of the best in the world. Many of its filmmakers made important crime thrillers, both in Germany in the 1920’s, and later as film noir directors in the USA, where they fled to get away from Hitler. “Lured”, praised here, was another film make by a refugee German, the talented Douglas Sirk.

    Mike Grost

    Comment by jonjermey — June 4, 2008 @ 5:53 am | Reply

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