ELLERY QUEEN 1975-76 b a c k
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In 1975, Levinson and Link, lifelong Queen fans, were allowed by NBC to
do Queen the way they wanted. The result was "Ellery Queen"
for only one full season. Stylistically, the producers went back to the radio show, setting this series in
1947. Although the pilot was based on a Queen novel, and one episode on a short story,
the rest of the episodes were original stories, but stories that
well-captured the spirit of an Ellery Queen
mystery. Jim Hutton played Ellery as a
absent-minded young man for which there were legitimate bases in the books.
Frederic Dannay said
Hutton's portrayal reminded him not so much of the fictional Ellery, but of himself at
about Hutton's age.
Hutton's charm and natural manner played perfectly against David Wayne's
crusty Inspector (despite lacking the moustache so often mentioned in the
books, the definitive depiction of 'The Old Man'). The show had a sense of
good humor, and its setting in 1947 lent a welcome sense of nostalgia
to the stories.
Ellery Queen and his father appear in every episode of the 1975-1976 TV show Ellery Queen. Sgt.Velie appears in all but one (The Sinister Scenario), and either Simon Brimmer or Frank Flannigan serve as competition for Ellery (in the case of Simon Brimmer) or a source of information (in the case of Frank Flannigan) in many of the others. We like to offer you the story-outlines of those episodes.
Oozing style, this pilot opens with a view of the Manhattan-skyline 1947, and then immediately gives us an intriguing look into the production of the immensely popular radio plays. A look behind the scenes of "The Casebook of Simon Brimmer" where the star reminds us most of an first Ellery we find in the early novels, a wise-guy who sets out to smart out each and everyone. Brimmer, unsatisfied with his scriptwriters tempts Ellery with a lucrative deal to deliver storyboards. A bored Ellery, already struggling with a deadline for his book, refuses the honor. Brimmer decides to get his inspiration an other way. Monica Grey, fashion designer, gets murdered but not before she manages to pull out the plug of her television and clock. A dying clue which, as his father points out, Ellery just can't resist. A strongly simplified plot based on "The Fourth Side of the Triangle" had its clues dramatically changed to make way to portray Ellery as some sort of Columbo "avant la lettre", a forgetful slob who a sharp observant mind. No shortage of suspects as it becomes clear that Grey had a love affair with her married neighbor Carson McKell (Ray Milland, "Dial M for Murder"). Carson call on Ellery to get him acquitted and in doing so provides Simon Brimmer a new topic for his radio show. Brimmer points out a loose end in the investigation and a irritated Ellery sets out to bring a classic denouement with the obligatory mise en scène.
Pilot Airdate 03/23/75 and 09/07/75
2* "The Adventure of Auld Lang Syne"
"What's a little murder here and there on New Year's Eve"
New Year's Eve at the Astor Hotel and
Guy Lombardo & the Royal Canadians are playing "Everybody loves my baby"
whilst Inspector Queen is trying to dodge Mrs.Velie's dancing shoes. The
wealthy Marcus Halliday reveals
his plans to eliminate each and everyone from his will.
He steps out to the phone boot and... gets stabbed. Not before he makes a
last phone call to a man he doesn't know.
as absentminded as
ever, tries to get to the scene of the crime by taxi and has some
explaining to do to the lovely Kitty McBride. He
gets there in time to find the solution and toast to a Happy 1947!
"The main inspiration is the
banquet speech in The Best Years of Our Lives, as noted in the cabbie’s
remark on his flat tire made of synthetic rubber (“if we’d had these on
Normandy...”). A wealthy industrialist is murdered on New Year’s Eve, 1946,
the suspects are the heirs he
vituperates and promises to disinherit before
1947. It’s not the successor, the climbing bimbo, the petty-cash swindler,
the secretary, nor her draft-dodging fiancé, it’s the swimming-pool
3* "The Adventure of the Lover's Leap"
Fountain Pen Heiress Stephanie Kendrick
awakens one night and picks up an Ellery Queen
book, soon reality and fiction don't seem all that
different. She's found dead at the
bottom of that balcony... Suicide? Not so as the body
seems to be moved after death, but why? - Simon Brimmer thinks he has it all
"A critique whose dénouement takes
place in a Poirot-style gathering of all the suspects during a live radio
program being recorded on an acetate disc, it having been noted by other
writers that the characters have names associated with the genre, such as
4* "The Adventure of the Chinese Dog"
"What do you have
in your pockets right this minute?"
The Queens take a 202 miles fishing trip to Wrightsville. Little do they know that Warren Wright, grandson of the town's founder and owner of a lucrative galoshes factory is about to be murdered. Beaten do death with his half a million dollar wedding gift for his daughter Julia: a Chinese Temple Dog. Despite Inspector's Queen intention on focusing on fishing, Ellery (reading a book on famous American Murderers) is drawn into the investigation by Henry Palmer. Palmer is Sheriff Oscar Eberhardt's rival in the upcoming election. Wright didn't trust his future son-in-law and had him investigated, his nephew was frustrated by Warren's lack of trust in his capabilities and Tilda McDonald, the housekeeper was in love with Warren...
Working title 'The Chinese Cat'
"The title refers to the gilded figure
of a temple dog rampant on a jewel-encrusted ball. Its possessor is
murdered, but the object is not stolen, and only later turns up missing from
a police evidence locker.
|5* "The Adventure of the Comic Book Crusader"
doesn't even look like me!"
unusually fiery-angry Ellery Queen
rampages in the office of
Comic book owner, Bud Armstrong.
His Capricorn Comics is putting out a
heavy-handed violence. Even more
enraged to learn
that the small print in his contract
allows them to do so, he ends up
threatening Mr. Armstrong. Armstrong, making no effort to
be a likeable character and unwilling to give credit for
his employees work gets shot.
"The cartoonists revolt—not the
maven who dictates panel by panel to his secretary the elements of his comic
book empire, but the men on his assembly line—the man who draws the figures,
the one who draws the backgrounds, the guy who does shading and coloring,
they’ve had enough of his berating them over palm trees in South Dakota,
“you wrote palm trees, I drew palm trees”, instead of the elms he obviously
meant. They buy bullets for a prop .38 at the office, and drill the guy.
6* "The Adventure of the 12th Floor Express"
"Queen - comma - Ellery. Mystery writer of some renown. Born April 2nd. New York City 1912. Father - Queen - comma - Richard. Inspector New York City Police Department."
News Mogul Henry Manners of the New York Daily Examiner is murdered in an elevator - an express elevator to the 12th Floor to be exact - with no one inside but the victim. A crafty plot that will test the mettle of the best whodunit fans. And the key clue is right up there on the screen - for a lengthy period of time with Ellery and the Inspector framing it - for anyone who can recognize it. Wrightsville is mentioned in this episode when Ellery states that he's going there for some rest and relaxation. The "howdunit" of this episode is very similar to a Perry Mason episode entitled The Case of the Wednesday Woman.
"Newspaperman dies on his way to
the top, with interesting and amusing consequences for the paper.
7* "The Adventure of Miss Aggie's Farewell Performance"
"Queen... Queen! He's not the fellow who writes all
Radio Soap Opera diva, Vera Bethune - known to her fans as dear Miss
school teacher - is poisoned during a taping of the show. She survives, and asks Ellery at
the hospital to stay on the case, but in short order, Miss Aggie is found shot to
Both Ellery and Inspector Queen feel responsible for not protecting her and dive into the
sea of suspects who might have wanted her dead. But hot on their heels is Simon
determined to beat them to it and win back his lost Vita-Cream sponsor.
Miss Aggie is a principal in
Middleville, a radio character who steers people over life’s shoals. The
mechanism of her death has a twofold interest. First, the actress playing
her wants more money, the writers threaten to kill her off, dramatically,
the actress poisons herself lightly during a broadcast so as to attract
publicity. In the hospital, she’s murdered for real.
8* "The Adventure of Colonel Niven's Memoirs"
"Uh, Dad - Think you could take care of that for me?
Now, I got that
Self absorbed author Colonel Alec Niven is in New York for a signing of his new
"Memoirs of a Spy". It's a character assassination novel in which he accuses a
myriad of people of war crimes and treasonous acts. It seems that Niven was with the
British Intelligence during the war and got his hands on some Nazi files that they didn't
burn when they evacuated Paris.
Robbie’s terribly risky move is to
underplay this most intensely, so that the aliquots of international
decision-making expand and disperse into quite the plain images they intend.
You have a blackmailer who is a British Intelligence officer with Nazi files
from occupied Paris, and various victim-suspects, all of whom were coerced
by the occupiers or working undercover, including the present wife of the
Russian ambassador in New York, closely watched by the NKVD (“What will
Truman do,” asks Inspector Queen, reading in the papers about another
|9* "The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party"
"Dad come on. You trust
me, don't you?
Thunderbolts and rain throughout
this episode as Ellery takes a train to
The whole family is present as
Spencer is staging a dressed rehearsal for a
birthday surprise for little Johnny Lockridge to be held tomorrow.
This marvel is one of the
Ellery Queen stories arranged for television by Peter S. Fischer
under the eye of Robert Van Scoyk, a concatenation of circumstances which
would explain, without recourse to the shooting schedule, why Sheldon has
his hands full.
10* "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils"
"The name is Simon Brimmer. Surely you've heard of me, Officer nine-three-seven"
Before a new burlesque-revival show called "Take It Off" can open, its producer, Sam Packer (cameo by George Burns) is found dead of an apparent heart attack. But the dead man has left a video behind to be shown at his funeral declaring that no matter what it looks like, he was murdered. And he asks Simon Brimmer to solve the case. The widow, however, goes to Ellery for help, who realizes that the disappearance of the stripper's bird is more than a coincidence.
In this episode we learn that Inspector Queen once walked a beat in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan during his early years on the NYPD.
Robert Pirosh’s script is
flagrantly a masterpiece on its subject, burlesque. There are two main
aspects in which Robbie’s direction signally expresses this, and the first
is a surprising dramatic evaluation of the MacGuffin, the producer’s onstage
funeral during which a film of himself is projected, announcing he’s been
murdered. Robbie cuts to a long shot of the stage from the center right
balcony as the house lights come up and curtains behind the casket are drawn
on the blank screen lifted to the heavens.
11* "The Adventure of the Pharaoh's Curse"
Inspector Queen: "It's past your
Norris Wenthworth has brought an Egyptian sarcophagus from Germany to display at the Tremane Museum, but there's a curse on it that's killed its previous six owners. Simon Brimmer is on hand to interview the new owner and ponder his fate, when lo and behold, he does indeed become the mummy's 7th victim. Or could someone else have had murder on his mind? Seems that Norris Wenthworth was a former aircraft manufacturer who had been investigated by a Select Senate Committee on charges of war profiteering
dictates a novel throughout this adventure, having injured an index finger
while using a can opener, Recalling, perhaps, Nabokov’s famous remark to Edmund
Wilson on the latter’s fictional female characters, that he would as soon
use his penis to open a tin can.
12* "The Adventure of the Blunt Instrument"
"We're going to nip this thing in the bud. I've got the most fantastic cure-all. Hot lemonade and sassafras - mixed with the extract of a pound of calves' liver. And after a rub-down with menthol and oil of peppermint, you take a bath in scalding chicken soup - hold the noodles...."
The episode opens with an awards dinner sponsored by the "Crime Writers of
America" announcing this years' recipient of their Blunt Instrument Award to be
mystery writer, Edgar Manning for his book, "The Shanghai Solution". Ellery
Queen is not in attendance, as he's at home with a head cold - a great running
gag throughout this episode. At a gathering after the awards dinner, we see the story's
principals at Manning's residence where each one seems to feel equal disdain for their
host. After a sour toast, Manning goes into his study to call Ellery -
intending to gloat
over his win, where he is murdered while speaking to Ellery on the telephone. All Ellery
hears is Manning's remark that some "rash person is there to balance the books".
This is very close to Mike Hodges’
Pulp in its defense of the writer against literary vivisectionists. A
haughty scribbler wins the Blunt Instrument Award for Best Mystery Writer of
the Year, and repines at its lowly status. He’s slain while talking on the
telephone to careless rival Ellery Queen, whose opinion is
given that the prizewinning novel is its author’s best work.
Last updated October 23, 2016
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