Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why I didn't blog fully on Butterfield 8

I hadn't written up a full-length post on Butterfield 8 to link to regarding Eddie Fisher's death; nor did I take the opportunity to this morning when I pointed out that Butterfield 8 is on the TCM schedule. The omission today was because of a more obscure movie I had already planned to blog about: Quiet Please: Murder, airing tomorrow morning at 11:30 AM ET on the Fox Movie Channel.

George Sanders gets top billing, as a man who starts off the movie stealing a rare edition of Hamlet. Why steal fine art? Simple: so you can forge it, and then sell multiple forgeries for big bucks. After all, who is going to complain to the police about having bought a forgery of something they bought thinking it was a stolen item? Sanders fences them courtesy of Gail Patrick, a high-class book dealer. Unfortunately, the two of them make the mistake of selling one of the copies to Sidney Blackmer. Blackmer is representing the Nazis, who have their own reasons for wanting the Hamlet, and when the Nazis discover they've been defrauded, you know they're not going to stop at anything to find out who's defrauded them, and get revenge.

And so, an elaborate revenge plot is conceived, involving getting Sanders to the city's main public library. But before that can happen, Patrick meets Richard Denning, a police detective investigating the case. She tries to take him for a ride in order to get him to get the Nazis and save Sanders, while Sanders, having learned about the plot, has a few tricks up his own sleeve. The final 30 minutes or so are set in the library after hours, after it's been closed due to another murder, and are a complex plot of twists and red herrings.

Quiet Please: Murder is a movie that has a lot of potential. Sanders is excellent at playing characters like the forger he does here. It's almost as if he drew upon a character like this when he was playing Addison Dewitt in All About Eve several years later. A three-way dispute between a Nazi, a forger who doesn't really like the Nazis but doesn't want to get arrested, and the police is also an interesting idea. But, the movie falls a bit short. It's partly because the movie itself is short, only running about 70 minutes; it's the same fate that would befall Shock a few years later. Indeed, Quiet Please: Murder also suffers from the other big flaw that made Shock problematic; namely, the existence of the Production Code. You know that Sanders and Blackmer aren't going to be able to get away with what they do, while the writers are going to have to engage in some pretty several mental gymnastics to get Patrick out of her predicament and still satisfy the folks enforcing the Code. It's a task they weren't able to fulfill, which makes the movie a disappointment. It's an interesting disappointment, but a disappointment nonetheless.

Quiet Please: Murder hasn't gotten a DVD release, and also suffers from a bad print. But it seems that's the only way we'll get to see it.

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