The portly detective solves a bizarre murder on a golf course.
While this first Nero Wolfe film seems well-intentioned, it's really of interest only as an historical curiosity. Edward Arnold, one of the great character actors of all time, looks pretty good as the portly Wolfe, but his portrayal of the detective is way off base. Rex Stout created Wolfe as an irascible, egotistical, curmudgeonly man who quaffs beer endlessly from a glass. Arnold portrays him as a jolly, laughing, hale-fellow-well-met who drinks beer directly from the bottle -- something that Wolfe did very rarely.
Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's amanuensis, legman, and sometime tormentor, is supposed to be a tough, smart, courageous detective in his own right. Lionel Stander, also a fine actor when properly cast and directed, turns Goodwin into a clown.
The plot moves rapidly. Too rapidly, in fact, for the charm of the Nero Wolfe mysteries lies largely in the atmospheric familiarity of their milieu. They are written as if they were stately waltzes, and this films zips by like a two-minute jazz riff.
Of all the adaptations of the Nero Wolfe stories, from the Sydney Greenstreet radio version of the 1940's to the lovingly produced A&E network productions almost sixty years later, the nod must be given to the A&E version, and to Maury Chaykin's portrayal of Nero Wolfe.
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