"Ellery Queen" on DVD!

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elleryqueendvd.pngToday's mystery readers (or at least the ones under 35) probably have heard of, but haven't read, any of the forty-plus novels and short stories starring the fictional mystery writer and detective Ellery Queen.  But from the character's debut in 1929 (in The Roman Hat Mystery, credited to "Ellery Queen" but actually written by EQ creators/cousins Frederic Dannay & Manfred B. Lee), Ellery quickly became popular right into the 70s. 

The character appeared in various mediums, including films, radio, comic strips and books and, in the 50s, three different TV series, with five (!) different actors, as Ellery. The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, begun in 1941, is still being published today.  The Ellery Queen character in the books  would eventually evolve over the decades from a callow snob to a more human, socially aware and introspective protagonist solving baffling murders ("whodunits") with the aid of his father, crusty NYPD Inspector Richard Queen. (Concurrently, due to the demands on the authors' time and talent, Dannay & Lee's EQ novels and short stories would be "ghosted" by a variety of others, including science fiction writers Avram Davidson and Theodore Sturgeon.)

elleryqueenanddad.pngIn 1975, writer/producers (and lifelong EQ fans) Richard Levinson and William Link (Mannix; Columbo; Murder She Wrote)  adapted the EQ character for another television series, with perfect casting choices Jim Hutton as Ellery and David Wayne as Inspector Queen (minus that character's mustache).  The resultant pilot film (based on the 1965 EQ novel The Fourth Side of the Triangle, which we carry ) and 22 episodes were set in 1947 New York City (with sidetrips to Hollywood and the books' fictional town of Wrightsville) and were plotted in the style of the books and radio show, with Hutton's Ellery breaking the "fourth wall" to challenge the viewers if they had figured out who the murderer was in that particular installment. 

Several good episodes including "The Adventure of the Black Falcon", "The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep" (which includes a great moment for Wayne's Inspector) and "The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party" (the only other Levinson/Link adaptation of a EQ story, which you can find here, and probably the best of the TV series) were made, with a score of "big name" guest stars including Eve Arden, Jim Backus, George Burns, Troy Donahue, Howard Duff, Eva Gabor, Larry Hagman, Tab Hunter, June Lockhart, Ida Lupino, Ross Martin, Dorothy Malone, Sal Mineo, Vincent Price, Cesar Romero, Barbara Rush, and Betty White, among many others.  Future Magnum P.I. co-star John Hillerman (as egotistical radio host/would-be sleuth Simon Brimmer) and Ken Swofford (as pushy reporter Frank Flannigan) would make occasional appearances and were cast as these characters (not from the books) by Levinson and Link to provide conflict/contrast to Hutton's more easygoing Ellery. Tom Reese co-starred as Inspector Queen's partner Sgt. Velie

Running only one season (1975-76) due to poor ratings and bad time slots, the Ellery Queen TV series was a well plotted, well cast production with tight scripts and two lead actors with great chemistry.  Now available on DVD (as Ellery Queen Mysteries: Complete Series), you can reserve the set of episodes from Greenwich Library by clicking here and see what a great mystery show it was.  Included in the set is a new 18-minute interview with William Link who discusses the show's development. 

(Yes, we still carry several EQ novels and short story collections.)

(My thanks to this EQ website for background on the books and TV series.)

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This page contains a single entry by Ed published on April 21, 2011 12:46 PM.

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