Michael Shayne Mysteries: Volume 1

Michael Shayne is your classic hard bitten, Irish-American, ex-cop, private eye who doesn’t take guff from any lousy palooka. Even when he’s having money trouble his principles keep him from taking crooked jobs. Sure, he’ll watch out for a dame in trouble but he’s not going to help anyone get rubbed out, even if they are a heel. Based on a pulp detective character created in 1939, this box set features four of the first five movies in the series. Only the first film, from 1941, is based on a Shayne book, however, the rest shoehorn the character into other detective stories. Compared with many detective pictures of the era, like John Houston’s The Maltese Falcon, released the same year, these have B-movie written all over them. But anyone put off by that status should think again. The Michael Shayne films were among many solid, entertaining films of that era. B-movies then were shorter, less publicised, lower budgeted films produced to fill-out double features by following the "A” picture. (Often Bs were lower quality genre pictures, hence the modern definition.) Also, unlike many detective films of the time, the Shayne films aren’t really film noirs. These are almost parodies of hard-boiled detective stories that meld screwball comedy with murderers and tough-guy, one-punch knockouts. Sam isn’t a brooding, intense, amoral private dick like Phillip Marlow or Sam Spade; he’s tough but at times, he can be downright goofy. Lloyd Nolan (Hanna and Her Sisters), who plays Shayne, deftly balances the toughness and humour of the character, and much of the appeal is due to his charm. These films will never find their way onto a best of all-time film list but they’re fun, light entertainment. (Fox)