The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario: Ellery Queen (1976)


 

So it is time for our annual Vincent Price film or TV episode.

I love Vincent Price and I can’t resist anything he is in. I was trying to decide on a film or TV episode, but this Ellery Queen episode intrigued me as I needed to fill a Friday TV show spot, because this episode looked fun, and I couldn’t resist adding another Sleuth to my “mysterious” year.

Mystery, you say?

So I have never read an Ellery Queen mystery or watched this TV show-but I do know who Ellery Queen is. In the Leverage episode “10 Little Grifters” Nate dresses up as him and the first time I saw that episode I had to look up who Ellery Queen is. Ellery Queen is actually similar to Diagnosis Murder, but backwards. Inspector Richard Queen is a renowned detective and his son a famous crime writer, who helps his father solve the really tough cases. (Like how Steve Sloan is a detective and his doctor father, Dr. Mark Sloan, solves all his tough cases).

So I found this episode on youtube and it was a lot of fun watching it as it had the original commercials that it aired with. So enough about that, let’s get started.

It has an old CREST commercial, I can’t believe these girls are fighting over which toothpaste to use. I wouldn’t care what my friends would want. I don’t think I even know what brand they use.

The episode starts off with them filming a scene from an Ellery Queen murder mystery- like how most end, when the director yells cut. The director is played by Vincent Price, I’d know his voice anywhere. I’d listen to him read a phonebook.

The Vincent Price, director Michael Raynor, isn’t happy and I don’t blame him. The guy playing Ellery Queen stinks, like he’s the literal worst. Meanwhile Ellery Queen and his dad are watching and are not impressed. They changed his story and dialogue. I feel you Ellery, Hollywood has ruined many things I love as well.

Vincent Price yells at everyone and is just at the end of his rope, and I hope he isn’t the one who is murdered. I’ll be disappointed if he’s in it for only a second.

Please, oh please! from Death Comes to Pemberley

OMGosh the guy playing Ellery Queen in the movie, Gilbert Mallory (Troy Donahue), is a serious jerk and diva. He’s going to die. I just know it! Too bad Michael Raynor can’t fire him as he owns part of the film and has a lot of power. It’d be great if he died.

Mallory meets the real Queen and is incredibly rude to him. What a jerk!

Mallory is cruel to the publicist and rewrote his script to steal lines from others-he’s totally going to be murdered.

So both the Queens are extremely disappointed in the experience. Inspector Queen expected glitz and glamour-but the studio is a really low budget one and doesn’t have the perks like the big studios. Ellery is upset that he didn’t get an updated script, all the changes are a surprise and an unwelcome one.

The publicist tries to console him and tells him he never gets the script changes either. How a guy can promote something without fully knowing what he is promoting is beyond me.

A lady interrupts them when she comes driving up to see Mallory-I’m assuming she’s the diva’s wife. She is and she is on set to keep her eyes on her husband, her husband who is involved with one of the actresses, Pamela, on set. Man, Mallory is digging his grave-someone is going to kill him, but who?

So the prop man unlocks the locker and grabs the prop gun, but leaves it open. Hmm…interesting,

Oh, I bet that this will be like that Psych episode Lights, Camera…Homicido where the man was murdered when the prop was switched out with a real knife. Mallory will probably be shot by the prop gun and really be shot as the gun will no longer be filled with blank but real bullets.

Pamela (the actress Mallory is sleeping with) shoots Mallory and closes her eyes when she does it. I don’t think she did that the first time. Almost as if…hmmm.

Hmm…is it her?

So she shoots him and all are happy with how Mallory died, as it finally looks real…but when he doesn’t get up, it turns out that he was…murdered. Shot by real bullets.

Ellery and Inspector are investigating which makes the local cops angry as they can’t stand these guys “butting in”. The Queens try to tell him about Mrs. Mallory-her threat of a final good-bye and that she didn’t leave when she said she did as her purse is still on set. There’s no way she would have left without it.

Hmm…

The head of the investigation, Captain Blake comes and it turns out that he and Inspector Queen are good friends who go way back. He makes the Lt. who was complaining earlier have them be a part. Haha!

They find Mrs. Mallory and she proclaims her innocence. She cries and says she loved her husband and would never kill him, and even if she wanted to she wouldn’t have had access to the prop box. She insists she only came back to talk to him as she no longer was upset. Hmmm…Her husband’s company had half the money in it-she probably could get access to the props. And did she really came back to talk to him? Or kill him?

Hmm…

Inspector Queen leaves to find the home of Dorothy Lamour and Ellery finds a note on his script telling him to talk to Al in special effects. He heads over there and it turns out Al has disappeared.

Ellery shows one of the other SFX guys his note and they find Al, who happens to be a fan and wants Ellery’s help. He insists that he put in six blanks this morning and never touched the gun again to reload it. He thinks someone got to the gun and put the real bullets in. He came in to work that morning and was loading the gun and received a phone call. With the phone being on the other end of the lot he ran over there, and it turned out that there was no one on the line. That’s the only time someone could have planted them.

His reason for hiding and not sharing this with the police? His sister was script girl on one of Mallory’s other pictures and he was afraid it would give him a motive, as Mallory dropped her and as she is “just a kid” it broke her heart. Ellery urges him to talk to the cops and they will treat him right.

In the next scene Al is in handcuffs. Yes, it turns out he had threatened Mallory, a fact he forgot to share with Ellery.

Lt. Smary Jerk Attitude gleefully tells Ellery what they discovered. He really hates Ellery.

The next commercials are pretty boring although one is for the Chicago Fire Festival. What is that?

Anyways, back to the show. The Queens are invited to a scrumptious brunch by Director Raynor. Inspector is mad as he wants to do some touristy things, but hey scrumptious brunch with Vincent Price, I mean Raynor, will have almost all your suspects and the gossip.

The big question in the air is whether or not the picture will go forward. And no one is quite sure. The Publicist for the film wants to get the stuntman Mike to be moved up to the lead, but Raynor isn’t interested in an “unknown”. This seems weird to be as you think the publicist would know better than to suggest that-their relationship seems weird.

The actor playing Inspector Queen in the movie goes to Raynor and tries to get him to reverse some of the changes Mallory made, but Raynor isn’t interested in dealing with it at the moment.

Hmmm…

Pamela isn’t too sad about the possibility of canceling the film as she will be able to get the part she really wanted in another film, a part that came her way after she signed the contracts for this film. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mallory is angry and starts pointing the finger at Raynor- telling Inspector Queen that her husband planned to fire him, but was killed first

Pamela also encourages them to look over Raynor’s gun collection as he’s a hunter and has a ton of guns that range from all types and decades. Ellery is super interested, but his father is done and ready to leave.

With that attitude I’m not surprised Ellery is the famous crimesolver in the family.

The actor playing the Inspector runs after the two and tells them something he just remembered. Originally Mallory had been wearing a real bulletproof vest but it was changed by Al, the prop man. If he had still had it on at the time then he would be alive today.

They go through the prop memos and find that Raynor was the one who asked for a bulletproof vest and that he wanted a simulated one instead. Raynor explains that Mallory hated the vest as he thought it made him look fat. Raynor tried to change his mind, but no dice, and he instead gave in. To some that may seem like a lame excuse, but the way this diva was, I believe it. The change was discussed off set with only Pamela being the one to hear if it.

Hmm…

Ellery is trying to figure it out who the killer is and starts reading over the scripts (the original and changed one)

The guy who plays Inspector Queen is always popping up and pointing fingers. I’m starting to wonder if it is going to be him as he always just “happens” to be there. He reveals that the end shooting scene changed from the original because the director requested it. It would save $200 to have Mallory be on the phone and shot by Pamela than to crash through a window by a stuntman.

But Ellery has discovered something very interesting, in the original writing, if real bullets were placed in the gun it would be harder to kill him on target, but in the new script-with the proximity, no way they could miss killing Mallory.

They ask Raynor about it who changed it and he answers he thought the clear shooting looked better and was cheaper, a win win. They are interrupted when Sonny Miller arrives on set to replace Mallory and everyone seems overjoyed to have him.

They begin shootong the car chase scene and switch Miller out for the stuntman Mike. I can’t help but feel something bad will happen.

Everything is going great until the car won’t stop and Mike goes crashing down the hillside.

We are back from commercials (a really weird Raisin Bran one) and it turns out the brakeline was cut-Mike is dead. So was the killer after Mallory, Sonny Miller, Mike the stuntman, or trying to stop the picture?

Hmm…

So the last one seems the most likely and the Queens start looking at Pamela since she is the only one who wanted to get out of the picture. She insists she has no reason for sabotage as RKO is waiting to do the picture until she is finished here. The Inspector insists that it isn’t a real alibi as she could have done the cutting of the brake line before she got word from RKO. Pamela insists there is no way as she doesn’t know anything about cars.

Ellery points out to his aggravated father that both murders were filmed, so they actually have an advantage as the review them for clues.

Ellery watches them and sees something? What? We can’t find out until he has rounded up the suspects.

Lt. Smarmy Jerk (I can’t remember his name and don’t really care to look it up) thinks Pamela did it as her face is cold blooded in the film of her shooting. Raynor defends her as being an actress and the Lt. says she’s not that good. LOL, I was thinking the same thing. Since he thinks she did it we all know that which means she didn’t.

Scene 231 is the clue. Ellery lists off the suspects:

  • Pamela, the actress who wanted out of the picture
  • The man playing Inspector Queen who’s lines were stolen by Mallory, maybe with Mallory (and Miller) gone the movie could be about him.
  • Mrs. Mallory, her husband was cheating on her and she never liked this picture-wants to pull the plug
  • Director Michael Raynor, he hated Mallory and wanted a different actor but Mallory had too much money involved-why he would try and stall the picture is uncertain, maybe it is a smokescreen to get them to look elsewhere
  • The Publicist, Mallory was cruel to him and he promoted Mike the stuntman (which is a odd relationship) also trying to kill Mike as a smokescreen?
  • Al the SFX guy-he hated Mallory but doesn’t have a reason for Mike.

Ellery gathers everyone up and here we go…

Elleey acts out the original scene from his script, Ellery going to the window and through it. A stunt is involved in the original scene so there would have been a stunt double-the stuntman would have been shot at. Mike was always supposed to be shot, the killer was always after the stuntman.

I KNOW WHO IT IS! You guys remember back at brunch the stuntman kept trying to get the publicist to get him get the part. Their interaction was weird as a good stuntman can have some power, but nothing like what Mike seemed to hold over the publicist. He must have something on him to make him do that. Earlier when Ellery complained about not being made aware of the changes to his story, the publicist complained that he isn’t told anything either. That means that he didn’t know about the scene being changed from the window and set up a murder using the original story.

Another mystery solved!

The last film the publicist worked on the actress had a nervous breakdown and was doing drugs to get through. Her drug dealer was jailed but the publicist needed to keep her going. She died from an overdose and Mike knew he supplied her with the pills and threatened him with the police if he didn’t do what he wanted.

Ellery and his dad exit set to do some conventional Hollywood plans.

That was interesting and enjoyable. Although it did make me think of Diagnosis Murder  (although I think that father and son pair had a better relationship.) I might check out some of the other episodes in the future.

For more Vincent Price, go to To All the Ghouls I’ve Loved Before: The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (1985)

For more detectives, go to What are you? I’m Batman: Batman (1989)

For more mysteries, go to Why Miss Fisher the Movie Flopped for Me: Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020)

For more that feature crime writers, go to The Perfect Murder: Dial “M” for Murder (1954)

For more TV episodes reviews, go to Who Kidnapped the Girls’ Soccer Stars?: North Mammon, Criminal Minds (2006)

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