Charade

[audio:/podcasts/pdm10.mp3]
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Story: A Paris housewife is widowed, only to discover that a number of parties want money her husband hid… and think she’s the one who has it.

Detective: Regina Lampert/Peter Joshua

Release Date: December 5, 1963

Writer: Peter Stone

Source: “The Unsuspecting Wife” by Peter Stone and Marc Behm

Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Jenny: Yes.  Reggie’s pretty much forced into it because everybody thinks she killed her husband and hid the money.
Lani: Yes, although an amateur, forced into the role by circumstance, but still functioning as a detective in the story.

Murderer as antagonist?
Jenny: Terrific antagonist.  All his moves are logical and smart and yet you never see him coming.
Lani: Yes, and wonderfully present throughout.

Conflict created by murder?
Jenny: The body falls off the train at the very beginning, and even that flirting scene at the beginning is Peter/Alex trying to find out if she killed him.
Lani: Yes, and also by the mystery of where the money is.

Fair play with all the clues given?
Jenny: Yes
Lani: Yes.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Jenny: Yes.  She tracks down every clue.
Lani: Yes; it’s Reggie who figures out how Charlie hid the money, and it’s through her deduction that she’s able to follow the trail through to the end

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Jenny says: 5 Pops
Mystery: 5, Craft: 5, Suspense: 5, Romance: 5

Lani says: 5 Pops
Mystery: 5, Craft: 5, Suspense: 5, Romance: 5

Laura

[audio:/podcasts/pdm09.mp3]
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Story:
A detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he’s investigating.

Detective:
Mark McPherson

Release Date:
November 1944

Writer:
Vera Caspary (novel), Jay Dratler (screenplay) and Samuel Hoffenstein (screenplay) and Elizabeth Reinhardt (screenplay) (as Betty Reinhardt) Ring Lardner Jr. (uncredited)

Source:
Laura, by Vera Caspary

Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Jenny: Yes.  Introduced in the first scene, then dropped while a suspect he’s interviewing throws the movie into one hellacious long flashback, then back to him.  Waldo’s voiceover is confusing, too.  The beginning of this movie is really botched, but MacPherson is definitely the protag.
Lani: Yes… once we finally get to him. The first third of the movie, Waldo’s presented as the protagonist, and the switch isn’t made gracefully.

Murderer as antagonist?
Jenny: Yes.  He does everything he can to muddy the investigation and throw suspicion on the other suspects.
Lani: Sure. Mostly.

Conflict created by mystery/murder?
Jenny: Yes.
Lani: Yes, the death of Laura brings the protagonist and antagonist together.

Fair play with all the clues given?
Jenny:  Yes.
Lani: Yes, in that we get all the clues that the detective does. He doesn’t get many actual clues, though.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Jenny: Yes.
Lani: Yes, although if he’d looked inside the clock right after Waldo first mentioned it… but no nitpicking. Yes.

All threads pertaining to the mystery pull together at the end?
Jenny: Yes.
Lani: Yes. Not a lot of threads there, but yes.

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Jenny says: 3 Pops
Mystery: 4, Craft: 3, Suspense: 2, Romance: 2

Lani says: 2.5 Pops
Mystery: 4, Craft: 3, Suspense: 2, Romance: 1

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

[audio:/podcasts/pdm08.mp3]
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Story:
A murder mystery brings together a private eye, a struggling actress, and a thief masquerading as an actor.

Detective:
Harry Lockhart

Release Date:
11 September 2005

Writer:
Brett Halliday (novel), Shane Black (screenplay)

Source:
“Bodies Are Where You Find Them”, by Brett Halliday

Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Jenny: Yep.  He’s even first in that stupid prologue.  Unfortunately the mystery doesn’t start there.
Lani: Yep, although it takes a while for the problem to start.

Murderer as antagonist?
Jenny: Yes.  As soon as the murder happens and Harry screws up the murderers nice clean getaway.
Lani: Yes, once the murder has actually happened.

Conflict created by mystery/murder?
Jenny: Yes, but again, not until the murder happens.  This movie needed to start much later; it’s got two prologues and then a huge waste of time about the heroine’s friend, and THEN the murder happens.
Lani: Yes. Until Harry witnesses the dead girl in the trunk, the antagonist couldn’t care less about him.

Fair play with all the clues given?
Jenny: Yes.
Lani: Yes.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Jenny: Yes.
Lani: Yes.

All threads pertaining to the mystery pull together at the end?
Jenny: Too damn many threads are resolved, some of them having nothing to do with the main plot.  We were hostile at that point.
Lani: Yes, although some threads are resolved when we don’t need them necessarily.

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Jenny says: 4 Pops
Mystery: 5, Craft: 4 (splitting the difference between the sloppy plotting and the incredible dialogue) Suspense: 4, Romance: 3 (Harry and Perry would have gotten a 5; they really missed an opportunity to do a great gay romance here)

Lani says: 4 Pops
Mystery: 5, Craft: 4, Suspense: 4, Romance: 3 (5 between Perry and Harry; 1 between Harry and Harmony, splitting the difference.)

LA Confidential


This week on Popcorn Dialogues, Alastair stands in for Jenny as we take a stroll through organized crime and institutional corruption. Sounds like fun!

[audio:/podcasts/pdm07.mp3]
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Story:
A shooting at an all night diner is investigated by three LA policemen in their own unique ways.

Detective:
Bud White and/or Ed Exley. It’s complicated.

Release Date:
September 19th, 1997

Writer:
James Ellroy (book); Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson (screenplay)

Source:
LA Confidential by James Ellroy

Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Lani: Yes. All three of them.
Alastair: Absolutely, although who the protagonist actually is remains open to debate.

Murderer as antagonist?
Lani: Yes.
Alastair: Yes, although the focus shifts from Patchett to Smith.

Conflict created by mystery/murder?
Lani: Yes, it’s the typical shed light/remain in the dark conflict.
Alastair: Yes, it’s present from the second scene of the film — or the first, if I had editorial control.

Fair play with all the clues given?
Lani: Yes; there were some areas that felt a little vague, but overall, I think everything was there all along.
Alastair: Yes, although it can be difficult to appreciate their significance through the smog of 1950s Los Angeles.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Lani: Yep.
Alastair: Absolutely.

All threads pertaining to the mystery pull together at the end?
Lani: Yes; once you go back through from the end and look at the beginning, it all makes sense why it’s there.
Alastair: Definitely. All those errant strands are pulled tight in the last act, and it comes together beautifully.

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Lani says: 4 Pops
Mystery: 5, Craft: 4, Suspense: 4, Romance: 1

Alastair says: 4 Pops
Mystery: 5, Craft: 3, Suspense: 3, Romance: 2

The Big Sleep

This week, the lovely Krissie (Anne Stuart) joined us for the discussion, set on defending one of her favorite movies. Reactions were mixed, and there were complications in the audio (a tech gremlin kept stopping the recordings) but despite all, we pulled out a fun and (we hope) marginally informative podcast. We also honed our approach to defining/rating mysteries, so there’s that.

Story: The charming Phillip Marlowe is hired by a dying millionaire to find out who’s blackmailing his youngest, and craziest, daughter. In the process, Marlowe gets tangled up in murder, gangsters, rare book sellers and Lauren Bacall.

Detective: Phillip Marlowe

Release Date: August 31, 1946

Writer: Raymond Chandler (book); William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman (screenplay)

Source: The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

Is it a mystery?

Detective as protagonist?
Jenny:
Lani: Absolutely. It starts right where the trouble starts, when Phillip Marlowe is called in to help a sick old man get his youngest daughter out of trouble. Problem is, the youngest daughter likes trouble. A lot.

Murderer as antagonist?
Jenny:
Lani: Yep. It’s quite a tangled web the bad guy weaves, and sometimes it’s hard to follow all the threads, but they do all lead—eventually—to the same bad guy.

Conflict created by mystery/murder?
Jenny:
Lani: Yes, the conflict is based on Marlowe wanting to get to the bottom of it all, and the murderer wanting him to keep his nose out of it.

Is it a good mystery?

Fair play with all the clues given?
Jenny:
Lani: Yes, although many of the clues were pretty hard to follow at times.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Jenny:
Lani: Yes; no cheap tricks for Marlowe.

All threads pertaining to the mystery pull together at the end?
Jenny:
Lani: This is where The Big Sleep falls apart. At the end, it’s still ambiguous as to who the murderer is, which I think is a big drawback for a mystery. And no one knows what the hell happened to the poor chauffeur.

Our Ratings and Breakdown:

Jenny says: ? Pops
Mystery: ?, Craft: ?, Suspense: ?, Romance: ?

Lani says: 3.5 Pops
Mystery: 4, Craft: 4, Suspense: 3, Romance: 3