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Don't Look Behind You does deserve to be judged separately, but the comparisons will be inevitable, it's just that when you watch this film and then the TV series or vice versa it is easy to see which is superior(in this case the TV series with Jim Hutton, one of my personal favourite shows of the 70s). Don't Look Behind You is not bad though, certainly better than it is given credit for despite its debits being really quite problematic. It is far from cheap, the soft grained image has a real charm to it, the lighting does give off a sinister and not too obvious atmosphere and it is evocative detail-to-period wise. The music has a real suavity and liveliness, there is some amusing smart dialogue especially between Ellery and Inspector Queen and the story and mystery is mostly diverting and keeps us guessing. The animation images for the hydra are genuinely creepy and still look good today, and the acting is serviceable with solid if fairly careful support acting and good chemistry between them. Harry Morgan is very good as Inspector Queen and Stefanie Powers is beautifully seductive. Peter Lawford from personal opinion however is miscast, that he is too old is not so much a problem but, while there are moments where he is very suave(and he has a pleasant speaking voice), he does come across as too aloof and too self-assured. The opening credits are cool but go on for far too long, the suspense is rather dragged out at times and when my house mates and I watched this all of us correctly guessed the identity of the killer too early. Some of the lighting at the end is a little too bright and somewhat surrealist as well. In conclusion, better than it's given credit for but not great. 6/10 Bethany Cox
When I got my first VCR in 1980, I set out to get as many detective
films as possible, and looked forward to each as a gem in my
collection. After reading about several such films, and having seen the
Jim Hutton/David Wayne series, I thought when I found that Harry Morgan
would be Inspector Queen, I knew there would be some fun watching it. I
was not disappointed with Morgan's performance, but Peter Lawford
seemed an unlikely choice to play the crime solver, Ellery Queen. I
could easily see why this TV pilot was not picked up as a series. The
casting. Simple as that. Lawford was all wrong. Now, I have yet to see
more than still photos and reviews of the other E.Q. movies or several
TV series (there were at least 4 different Ellerys) so I cannot compare
one to the other, but I can tell you that I remember a TV guide article
written by the son of one of the two Ellery Queen creators (I forget
whether it was Manfred B. Lee or Frederick Dannay) and he said that his
dad would agree that Jim Hutton was the closest to what Ellery Queen
would be, and also David Wayne as the irascible Inspector. (Both actors
for Inspector Queen were perfectly cast in my humble opinion.) It was a
fairly good mystery as I remember it, and will have to watch it again
sometime if I can ever dig it out of my over-sized collection. I
remember loving the little animated "bumper" that was used at each
commercial break. The book title was something about a "cat-o-nine
tales." (Not that is not a typo either.) Now if only we could have seen
the series that almost happened starring the seventh of a ton, orchid
loving, gourmand detective Nero Wolfe, with Orson Welles (another time
it was to be Raymond Burr) and John Ritter (still another time, Bill
Cosby) as Archie Goodwin.
But that's another topic altogether.
"Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You" was a super stylish pilot for a
projected NBC series for the 1971-72 season.
"Ellery Queen" was up for a slot on the new "Wednesday Mystery Movie" wheel that wound up including "Columbo", "McCloud", and "McMillan and Wife". NBC almost picked "Ellery Queen" over "McMillan and Wife".
Barry Shear's direction of "Ellery Queen" was really stunning (including cartoon segments of the "hydra" killer).
Peter Lawford gave a light, suave, likable performance as Ellery Queen, even if he was miscast.
I wish "Queen" had sold. "Ellery Queen" was really a who-done-it mystery, which you can't say for "Columbo" or "McCloud". "Ellery Queen" could have been a fine fourth detective on the mystery wheel. I think it would have been a success.
I could well have lived with the charming Peter Lawford as Ellery, but if the role had to be recast I think James Wainwright, Roy Thinnes, Mike Farrell, Michael Douglas, Michael Parks, or Bradford Dillman might have been interesting.
Andrew Duggan or Jose Ferrer would have been cool as Inspector Richard Queen, Ellery's father.
To produce the show, I would have tried to get the great Richard Alan Simmons ("Trials of O'Brien", the "Banyon" movie pilot).
In this adaption of an Ellery Queen novel obviously meant to be a TV
pilot for a series, Peter Lawford essays the part of the famed mystery
writer Criminologist. The case that he solves for the NYPD involves the
seemingly random strangulations of certain men and women who have no
apparent connection to each other. They're strangled with ribbons, blue
for the men and pink for the women. And the press has given the serial
killer the name of the Hydra.
The colors of the ribbons might give you a clue to what common denominator the victims have. And the motive is a twisted one from a very twisted mind.
Harry Morgan was a very good choice to play the part of Inspector Queen of the NYPD. Given their relative ages I thought that Peter Lawford was too old to be believable as Morgan's son. But fans of Ellery Queen must have been shocked when Morgan becomes Ellery's uncle and only a half brother at that to his father.
That helped the believability in ages, but Lawford turns out to be quite the swinger, something the cerebral Ellery Queen never was in the novels. Purists must have been aghast. Later on in the Seventies, Jim Hutton was perfect as the cerebral intellectual Ellery with David Wayne as his detective father. Too bad that series didn't have a longer life as well as it star should have.
E.G. Marshall plays a consulting psychiatrist who has an agenda himself and Coleen Gray his wife. Possible suspects and victims include Stefanie Powers and Skye Aubrey.
The film is all right, but Ellery Queen fans no doubt were disappointed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on an actual Ellery Queen Story (The Cat of Many Tails) this
story is about strangler called the Hydra killing people seemingly
randomly across New York. Stumped Inspector Queen brings in his nephew
Ellery to help solve the crime.
This was an attempt to get another detective in NBC's mystery Wheel (Columbo,McCloud, McMillian and Wife) that went belly up. It's not a bad mystery, its just not a very exciting one.
Ellery this time out is Peter Lawford, and he's an okay detective. The trouble is he's been rethought of as a womanizing Englishman living in NY where his Uncle (his father's half brother) is a police inspector. He plays it like Lawford-which means a bit to aloof and cocksure. Its great but there is no uncertainty. (Then again Lawford is perfect and then some in the final killer scene which shows what the film should have been) The other problem is that you can guess who did it about half way in since the "killer" can't be the killer that early in this sort of a story.
For me the film is a trade off since the okay story is counter balanced by some great shots of NYC in 1970.
worth a peak if you run a cross it but I wouldn't search it out.
I like Peter Lawford, and I like David Wayne, and I liked this movie.
The main reason I remember it so fondly was that many, many years ago there was a snowstorm in Frazee, Minnesota, and our local tv channel was down, so they spent the entire day rerunning this movie! I saw it five times!
The 70's Ellery Queen series is a joy for any mystery buff like me. I have the ones from the 30's and would love to obtain all of the ones from the 70's. Hutton is the best yet. Today' movies just cannot compete They depend too much on special effects The earlier movies gave you a chance to become part of it. You were able to think along with the characters. Solve the crime or at least attempt to.
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