04 June 2006

Three Great Detectives

I rented a few DVDs and planted myself in front of the TV to watch. I was hunting for something with the first person perspective that I am anticipating for S&E. So I went with the greats.

The Maltese Falcon. Humphrey Bogart as the ace Sam Spade (Dashiel Hammet). This is definitely one of the classiest pieces ever. First off, Bogart is debonaire, even if all his characters are the same. His suits are impeccable. He's the opposite of Peter Falk's Columbo, a bumbling rumpled pug of a detective. Bogart's suits are always neatly pressed, jackets buttoned and a sharp hat on his head. The movie (unlike my recollection) did not have a first person narrative over the top, so now I'm going to have to go find a couple Dashiel Hammet mysteries and read them!

The Big Sleep. Bogart again, this time as Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe. Added bonus, Lauren Bacall as the love interest. Wow! Marlowe has guns and isn't afraid to use them, unlike Spade who says he doesn't like guns and doesn't carry one. But he is good at taking them away from people. In shocking violence on the screen, there are five murders, one committed (in self-defense) by Marlowe, and one set up by him. Marlowe is sharp, not quite as debonnaire as Spade even if ostensibly higher class. He has a better relationship with the police than Spade has. Both smoke like a chimney.

Song Bird. This time it is Stacey Keach as Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Hammer comes out shooting and drops more people in this picture than the other two combined. His guns never seem to run out of amunition. This film, actually two episodes of Mike Hammer TV series spliced together, does have the kind of voice-over narrative that I'm looking for, but frankly it was dull. Keach's delivery can't even be considered dry. More like brittle. Nothing he says comes off. If it were Bogey saying the same lines, I'm pretty sure that it would have sounded brilliant. Hammer always looked as if he'd slept in his clothes, and didn't change suits or shirts throughout the whole several days depicted in the film. It wasn't bad as far as the mystery goes, but in the summary as they were tying together the pieces, even Mike Hammer got some of the names twisted around as to who killed who. I noticed that in the Phillip Marlowe myster as well. Man, if you are going to toss in a bunch of characters and then sort it all out in the end, you've got to keep them straight and know who killed whom.

So, there was some good fodder for my story here. A couple conventions that I need to spoof. Mike Hammer has a knock-out secretary who is sharp and keeps him taken care of, as does Sam Spade. Pillip Marlowe is a loner. He doesn't even seem to have a secretary. Spade starts out with a partner who gets killed in the first ten minutes. Marlowe acts completely alone. Hammer has a staff including a younger apprentice detective. In that, I think that Dag Hamilton is more like Marlowe in that he acts alone, but I like the fact that he's got a secretary. I may make her more than a couple days a week parttimer.

I think I'll try to keep Dag clear of the police entirely, as well, although he may have a run-in with the FBI since he is chasing down securities across state lines. We'll see. Another thing that I liked about Hammer is that he's a musician and could sit in with the band on the keyboard when he needed to. It's an interesting thought.