Reviewing Van Johnson’s episodes of Murder, She Wrote

Reviewing episodes of Murder, She Wrote is something I occasionally do on 18 Cinema Lane. Even though this is the fourth time I’ve done this, the last time I wrote about any episode was back in February. When I discovered Van Johnson had appeared on three episodes of Murder, She Wrote, I figured it would be a good topic for my submission in the Fourth Van Johnson Blogathon. It also provided an excuse to add some variety to my content for the month of August. Out of the projects listed on Van’s filmography, the only one I’ve seen is Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows. While he has appeared on several television shows, I haven’t seen his episodes of those shows. Choosing to review Van’s episodes of Murder, She Wrote has allowed me to see the versatility of his acting talents. It also showed me what his characters had to offer in Jessica Fletcher’s world!

The Fourth Van Johnson Blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood. Image found at http://loveletterstooldhollywood.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-fourth-annual-van-johnson.html.

Name: Hit, Run and Homicide

Season 1, Episode 6

Premiere Date: November 25th, 1984

The title card for ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

Daniel, Van Johnson’s character, is an inventor who lives in Cabot Cove. Some of his inventions made the episode seem ahead of its time. While Jessica and Daniel are riding their bikes, Daniel reveals how he created a machine that will record a rider’s heart rate and mileage. In 2020, a product that is the closest to Daniel’s creation is the Fitbit. Throughout the episode, the people of Cabot Cove are scared of a car that can drive itself. Despite its limited availability, driverless cars have been tested on and are in the prototype stage.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Dialogue plays an important role in any mystery story. But in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’, the story ended up being dialogue heavy. Even though Jessica discussed the mystery with the other characters, these discussions felt more like casual conversations than attempts to solve the case. The story was not executed as well as other episodes because of this creative decision. It also made the episode have a lower sense of urgency. I understand ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ premiered in the show’s first season. However, I can think of other episodes that didn’t heavily rely on dialogue.

The mystery itself:

As I just mentioned, the story of ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ was dialogue heavy. Since I already discussed this, I will not repeat myself. What I will say is how interesting it was to see Sheriff Tupper ask Jessica for help on a case. During the lifespan of Murder, She Wrote, Jessica voluntarily gets involved in a typical murder investigation. The police officers, detectives, and/or investigators are either annoyed by Jessica’s presence or they don’t seem to care. Up until this point, I don’t recall ever witnessing someone ask Jessica for her sleuthing expertise.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Almost every show has changed their opening credits over the course of their existence. Murder, She Wrote is no exception. In this episode’s opening credits, the theme music was longer. It also featured more footage of Angela’s character. In most of the episodes that I’ve seen, the theme music is shorter with the credits showing about five shots of Jessica Fletcher.
  • Jessica rides her bike in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ more than she did in any episode I’ve seen so far. She can be seen riding her bike in her hometown of Cabot Cove, where this episode takes place.  The scenery in Cabot Cove was very picturesque. This kind of makes me understand why Jessica chooses not to drive. However, ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ probably marks the first and only time she got behind the wheel of a vehicle.
  • There were a few surprises in this episode of Murder, She Wrote! One of them was a car chase that takes place in Cabot Cove. I won’t spoil anything if you haven’t seen ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’. All I’ll say is how I wasn’t expecting a car chase on this show.

My overall thoughts:

So far, I’ve seen four episodes from Murder, She Wrote’s first season. These episodes have ranged from poor to fine. The way I feel about ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ is similar to how I feel about ‘Paint Me a Murder’. There were some interesting components within the story, such as inventions that make this episode feel ahead of its time. However, the episode as a whole could have been stronger. While dialogue is an essential part of any story, ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ relied too much on that piece of story-telling. Because of this, there was a limited number of clues presented. Something I briefly mentioned in my review is the scenery of Cabot Cove. As I said earlier, the scenery was picturesque! It successfully makes this town look inviting!

Rating: A 3.7 out of 5

The funniest scene in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ is when Jessica tells her friend, “And you wonder why I don’t drive a car”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Name: Menace, Anyone?

Season 2, Episode 20

Premiere Date: April 6th, 1986

The title card for ‘Menace, Anyone?’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

Van Johnson’s character in ‘Menace, Anyone?’ was different from his character in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’. However, he did a good job making Elliot distinguishable from Daniel. This was because of two things: Van’s acting performance and the screenwriting. Speaking of acting, Murder, She Wrote has featured some future stars on their episodes. In ‘Menace, Anyone?’, two of them were Bryan Cranston and Linda Hamilton. I have not seen their most notable projects; Breaking Bad and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Based on what I do know about their roles in these projects, it seems like Bryan and Linda were given acting material that allowed them to portray a different type of character. It’s also an interesting coincidence that both actors were able to find success outside of the show.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

So far, my favorite episode of Murder, She Wrote is ‘Film Flam’! One of the reasons why I like this episode is the exploration of the movie industry. In ‘Menace, Anyone?’, the story revolved around the world of tennis. Even though this provided an interesting component to the episode, the subject of tennis could have been explored further. What’s great about ‘Film Flam’ is how educational the story was while also being entertaining. With ‘Menace, Anyone?’, I didn’t feel like I learned anything new about tennis. If anything, all the information presented in the story was content I already knew.

The mystery itself:

The mystery in ‘Menace, Anyone?’ is one of the better written stories I’ve seen from this show! It was not only compelling from start to finish, it also contained several twists and turns that left me guessing until the end. Several surprises were sprinkled into the story. There was also a satisfying number of suspects and clues. As I always do, I won’t spoil this episode of Murder, She Wrote. However, I will say the reveal of the guilty party was different from other episodes I’ve seen.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I was surprised to see how seriously the athletes were taking the charity tournament in ‘Menace, Anyone?’. In a charity event involving sports, such as a tournament or a golf outing, the cause itself is what brings people together. I’m assuming these events don’t place a large emphasis on an athlete’s ability to perform, but, instead, on an athlete’s notoriety to raise awareness for the cause. Because of this, I thought the athletes would have some pressure lifted from their shoulders.
  • Fashion from the ‘80s can be hit or miss. However, there are some outfits that are memorable for better or worse. Cissy’s dress in this episode is a great example of this. I don’t know if this dress was a part of a trend from that time period or if the show’s costume designer was trying to be ambitious. But I’ll include a picture of the outfit in this review so you can decide for yourself.
  • As I’ve said before, I will not spoil this episode. However, I was not expecting to see mental health brought up in ‘Menace, Anyone?’. Though it was brief, it was interesting to see Murder, She Wrote incorporate a real-life topic like mental health into one of their episodes. This kind of storytelling is something the show is not known for. It reminded me of episodes like “The Legacy of Borbey House”, ‘Paint Me a Murder’, and “The Days Dwindle Down”.

My overall thoughts:

This is definitely one of the stronger episodes I’ve seen from Murder, She Wrote! Both the story and acting were solid, which made ‘Menace, Anyone?’ engaging to watch! The mystery was also interactive, providing the audience with enough suspects and clues to help Jessica solve the case. While I wish the subject of tennis was explored to its fullest extent, it did add interest to the episode. The more episodes of Murder, She Wrote I watch, the more I prefer the ones where Jessica travels abroad. The story in ‘Menace, Anyone?’ takes place in Boston, Massachusetts. Despite well-known landmarks being absent from this episode, the tennis court and banquet hall gave the show some interesting locations.

Rating: A 4.2 out of 5

In my opinion, the worst parts about this dress is how there’s too many ruffles and how the ruffles themselves are a very contrasting color. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Name: Hannigan’s Wake

Season 7, Episode 4

Premiere Date: October 28th, 1990

The title card for ‘Hannigan’s Wake’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

There were two instances in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ where flashbacks were used to enhance the story. Toward the beginning of the episode, Van Johnson’s character, Daniel Hannigan, is sharing the overarching mystery with Jessica. While he does this, a flashback of the mystery’s events is shown to the audience in order to present what happened. A second flashback appeared toward the end of the episode. This creative choice was made to reveal the guilty party. Without these flashbacks, the scenes would feel dialogue heavy. They would also lack the “show” in “show and tell”.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Even though the two scenes with flashbacks were not dialogue heavy, the majority of ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ was. The mystery in this episode is a sixteen-year-old cold case. Despite this, the story put more emphasis on the characters’ conversations about the case than showing them actively solving it. This caused the mystery to feature fewer clues than a typical Murder, She Wrote episode. It also made the story have little suspense and intrigue. The limited amount of interactivity in the cold case episodes seems to be a common flaw, with ‘The Days Dwindle Down’ experiencing a similar issue.

The mystery itself:

Because I already talked about most of the components of this mystery, I will choose not to repeat myself. But what I will say is how I liked seeing a type of mystery that isn’t often featured on the show. This is something I mentioned when I reviewed the episode, ‘The Days Dwindle Down’. This helps break the series’ monotony, which gives the overall story fresher ideas.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I know funeral homes have their own styles and presentational displays for their parlors based on the preferences of their owners. However, the funeral parlor featured in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ did not look or feel like a typical funeral parlor. The walls of this episode’s parlor were bright blue, with the space featuring a lot of light. It gave off a more cheerful feeling than most funeral parlors would. I’m also aware that funeral services are unique to the family hosting that gathering. But in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, one funeral visitation felt more like a light-hearted dinner party. It almost seemed like the funeral itself wasn’t being taken seriously.
  • In this episode, the house of Stephen Thurlow, the father of the murder victim, is featured in a few scenes. Based on the exterior architecture, I recognized that house from the Murder, She Wrote episode, ‘The Way to Dusty Death’! Out of all the episodes I’ve seen so far, this is the second time where I saw an out-of-Cabot Cove location presented in more than one episode.
  • To my disappointment, Van Johnson did not appear in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ as much as he did in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ and ‘Menace, Anyone?’. In fact, he only appeared in three scenes. I know Van starred in this episode toward the end of his acting career. However, I was expecting his character to have a more consistent presence, especially since he was cast in more than one episode.

My overall thoughts:

At best, ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ was an ok episode. But at worst, it was very mediocre. While it was nice to see a different kind of mystery, I was not a fan of how the story was dialogue heavy. I mentioned in this review how ‘The Days Dwindle Down’ had the same flaw. What made that episode work was the inclusion of the movie Strange Bargain. In ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, the inclusion of Irish heritage came across as a random afterthought rather than a unique component to the episode. ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ was also one of the sadder episodes of Murder, She Wrote. I won’t reveal why this is the case, but I was not expecting the episode to carry this particular tone.

Rating: A 3 out of 5

I would be willing to guess that pictures and videos do not do this house justice. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What are your thoughts on Van Johnson’s filmography? Do you have a favorite Murder, She Wrote episode? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun in Cabot Cove!

Sally Silverscreen

Sally Watches…Murder, She Wrote (The Sequel)!

Last month, my review of A Time to Remember became my 150th movie review! In that review, I said that I would be publishing a special post to commemorate this achievement. For the Mystery Mania Blogathon last March, I wrote an article where I reviewed some episodes of Murder, She Wrote. After I published that article, the moderator of that blogathon, Robin from Pop Culture Reverie, recommended some episodes for me to watch. So, in this post, I’m bringing back “Sally Watches…Murder, She Wrote”! This time, however, I’ll be reviewing the episodes that Robin shared with me in the comment section!

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Since I reviewed this book last October, this image felt like a good fit for this post. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Name: We’re Off to Kill the Wizard

Season 1, Episode 7

Premiere Date: December 9th, 1984

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The title card for “We’re Off to Kill the Wizard”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

In some Murder, She Wrote episodes, the mystery starts at the halfway point. But the mystery in ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’ began fifteen minutes into the episode. This allowed the mystery to be explored much sooner. It also kept the audience’s interest in what was happening in the story. When it came to exposition, there was enough room set aside to keep viewers satisfied. Within the first fifteen minutes, the audience was introduced to the characters, setting, and lead-up to the mystery in an effective way. In this period of time, nothing felt rushed or overlooked. The screenwriters associated with this episode took their time in an effort to let all story-telling elements flourish.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

When I discovered this episode would take place in an amusement park, I was excited to see what kind of perspective would be associated with this location. While it was interesting to see the behind-the-scenes aspect of theme parks, I was disappointed by how there was no educational or insightful commentary provided. For example, in the episode, ‘Film Flam’, the different steps involved with organizing a movie premiere were showcased. This process was an educational and insightful look into the movie industry. With ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’, I don’t feel like I learned anything new about the amusement park industry. Not including this kind of information in the episode seems like a missed opportunity.

 

The mystery itself:

I found the mystery in ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’ to be interactive and engaging! As I already mentioned, it helps that the mystery started fifteen minutes into the episode. It gave the audience an opportunity to solve the mystery alongside Jessica. However, I think the resolution was met way too quickly and it was a little too far-fetched. I’m not going to spoil this episode if you haven’t seen it. But it required more suspension of disbelieve than I expected.

 

The other factors from this episode:

  • When Robin recommended this episode to me, she brought it to my attention that Joaquin Phoenix guest starred in this episode. I’m glad she pointed this out because I wouldn’t have known that piece of information otherwise. It’s always nice to see a familiar face on Murder, She Wrote! It’s also interesting to see how far Joaquin has come as an actor.

 

  • In the haunted house attraction at the amusement park, there was a prop that consisted of a giant face. All I’ll say is, to me, it looked creepy.

 

  • During this episode, one of the male employees at the amusement park made a comment to Jessica about seduction. I understand that the ‘80s were a different time compared to today. But, personally, I don’t think this comment aged very well. It made me feel uncomfortable and was very off-putting. I’m honestly surprised that the comment wasn’t omitted from the script.

 

  • Toward the beginning of this episode, there was a demonstration where a few actors were acting out a scene to promote the theme park’s haunted house attraction. This demonstration was so convincing, that I honestly thought the episode’s murder had taken place. Fortunately, none of the characters were harmed and it was all an act. That specific scene shows just how talented the actors and screenwriters were in this episode!

 

My overall thoughts:

I liked ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’ more than other episodes I’ve seen. However, there are elements in this episode that could have made it stronger. I wish this script would have left some room to provide educational or insightful commentary about the amusement park industry. It would have provided interesting content for the story. Also, the resolution of the mystery was far-fetched and way too easily resolved. This took away some of the narrative’s believability. While I respect the show’s creative team for thinking outside the box, the execution could have been better.

 

Rating: A 3.5 out of 5

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Yesterday: Guest star on Murder, She Wrote Today: Cinematic champion Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Name: Paint Me a Murder

Season 1, Episode 14

Premiere Date: February 17th, 1985

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The title card for “Paint Me a Murder”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

The biggest showstopper in ‘Paint Me a Murder’ was the scenery! According to IMDB, this episode was filmed in California. Since the Golden State does have picturesque beaches and appealing foliage, it makes sense for the creative team to take advantage of this location. From the beach to the grounds of Diego’s photogenic house, everything was appealing to look at and was captured well on camera. Like I’ve said before, the show’s location scout deserves a Lifetime Achievement Award!

 

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Because the subject of art was incorporated in this story, I was hoping to learn more about the art industry through this episode. But, similar to ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’, no commentary was provided in the narrative. In fact, art didn’t play as big of a role in this story as I expected. If anything, it felt like it was an afterthought. The limited amount of attention for this subject made me disappointed. Also, like ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’, this lack of commentary was a missed opportunity.

 

The mystery itself:

‘Paint Me a Murder’ consisted of two mysteries, as there are two murders taking place in the story. There’s also a guest that’s trying to harm Diego. Even though there were more mysteries in this episode than are usually on Murder, She Wrote, I still found them to be engaging! Enough suspects and clues keep the audience invested in the story. Another thing that helped was letting the audience solve the mystery alongside Jessica. This creative choice allowed a sense of interactivity to be incorporated into the episode.

 

The other factors from this episode:

  • Out of all the Murder, She Wrote episodes I’ve seen, the cast in ‘Paint Me a Murder’ is one of the most star-studded! Besides having Angela Lansbury as the lead actress of the episode, some of the guest stars include Cesar Romero, Stewart Granger, and Robert Goulet. I’d say that the star power is strong with this story!

 

  • At one point in this episode, Diego shares how his faith has influenced his art. As I said in my review of “The Days Dwindle Down”, Murder, She Wrote is not known for introducing thought-provoking dialogue and encouraging conversation. But seeing the idea of faith playing a role in one of the character’s lives was interesting to see in this episode. It reminded me of the brief discussion about how different people view topics relating to belief systems from “The Legacy of Borbey House”.

 

  • The biggest flaw of ‘Paint Me a Murder’ was how it sometimes felt like a soap opera. There were some scenes where characters would sit around and talk about their problems. Relationship drama is also a common occurrence in this episode. Personally, I didn’t find this part of the story to be interesting.

 

My overall thoughts:

Even though I liked this episode more than ‘We’re Off to Kill the Wizard’, it still had its flaws. The soap opera element of the story should have been left out. There also should have been some commentary about the art world. However, I did think the mysteries were interesting. I also liked the cast in this episode, as it consisted of very talented actors and actresses. The best part of ‘Paint Me a Murder’ is the scenery! Murder, She Wrote has a good track record when it comes to their sets and backdrops. This episode is a perfect example of this!

 

Rating: A 3.7 out of 5

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How can anyone look at this beach and not think it’s breathtaking? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Name: Murder Takes the Bus

Season 1, Episode 18

Premiere Date: March 17th, 1985

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The title card for “Murder Takes the Bus”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

In this episode, the show’s creative team did a good job when it came to paying homage to the classic film, Psycho. The setting was a dark and stormy night, similar to the setting in Alfred Hitchcock’s film. The weather condition causes the characters in the episode to rest at a road-side diner. This situation is similar to how Marion ended up at the Bates Motel. Another similarity is the murder in each story takes place at the rest-stop. Details like this that are found in the story show how much the show’s creative team respected this iconic film.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Unlike the film this episode was paying tribute to, ‘Murder Takes the Bus’ featured too many characters in the story. Because there were so many people in this episode, it was difficult to keep track of who was who. It also didn’t allow the characters to be fully developed in their own narratives. There wasn’t enough time or room in the script to truly get to know these characters. This did a disservice to the actors and actresses in this episode.

 

The mystery itself:

Since there were so many characters in this episode, it took the primary focus away from solving the mystery. Instead, the episode was about the characters and their various conversations. This brought down the intrigue of the story and I did not find it to be very interesting. The mystery started within the first twelve minutes of the episode. But that’s the only good thing I can say about it.

 

The other factors from this episode:

  • As I already mentioned, the setting of ‘Murder Takes the Bus’ is a dark and stormy night. I’ve seen other episodes where this setting has been placed in the story. Every time this has happened, the creative team does a good job creating the setting! Even though the lighting is used sparingly, it’s still enough to see what is going on in the scenes. This choice is to represent lightening and it appears effective on screen! It also sets the mood for the rest of the episode.

 

  • It was nice to see Rue McClanahan guest star in this episode! I’ve seen her acting work on The Golden Girls and in a few Hallmark films. Her role in ‘Murder Takes the Bus’ was different from those other projects. This gave Rue the opportunity to move out of her acting creative zone!

 

My overall thoughts:

I was not a fan of this episode. The homage toward Psycho was a nice touch, but the episode itself was executed poorly. Having too characters was the biggest flaw of ‘Murder Takes the Bus’. It tampered with every element of the story, from the character development to the mystery itself. Speaking of the mystery, it felt like an afterthought within a mystery series. Similar to ‘Paint Me a Murder’, I was not a fan of the drama among the characters. The overall episode was not interesting and had little to no intrigue.

 

Rating: A 2 out of 5

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I couldn’t tell what book Jessica was holding, but I’m wondering if it’s one of her own books? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Name: Crossed Up

Season 3, Episode 13

Premiere Date: February 1st, 1987

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The title card for “Crossed Up”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

In my review of “The Days Dwindle Down”, I talked about how I loved the Jarvis house in that episode. That same house makes an appearance in ‘Crossed Up’! The same interior and exterior shots were shown in the episode. But new perspectives were given to this location in an attempt to show it in a different light. In this episode, more exterior shots were presented, highlighting the size of the front yard. It also emphasized the wealth of the characters living there.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Throughout the episode, Jessica’s loved ones and friends don’t believe her when she tries to warn them about an upcoming murder. They honestly think she’s crazy. Had this episode aired within the show’s first season, the idea of the people in Jessica’s life looking out for her would make more sense. But because this episode was featured in the third season, it feels unnecessary. By this time, Jessica has successfully solved several mysteries. So, the warnings she receives seem out of place.

 

The mystery itself:

Like the other episodes I reviewed in this post, the mystery in ‘Crossed Up’ started early. This gave the audience a chance to solve the mystery alongside the characters. However, I didn’t like how Jessica didn’t solve the case by herself. This show is called Murder, She Wrote for a reason. If Jessica isn’t involved in the story, it defeats the purpose of that title. What makes the show work is Jessica’s intelligence and wit when it comes to each case. That aspect was lost in this episode.

 

The other factors from this episode:

  • Just like I said about ‘Murder Takes the Bus’, the creative team did a good job creating the setting of a dark and stormy night. From the lighting to the sound effects, it definitely fits the tone they were going for!

 

  • In this episode, Jessica is bed-ridden due to a back injury. However, the people in Jessica’s life act like her back injury is worse than it really is. I understand that back injuries can be painful and disruptive. But the other characters view Jessica’s injury as something she needs to spend more than a week in bed for. This seemed very confusing and wasn’t as effective as the screenwriters thought.

 

My overall thoughts:

This episode of Murder, She Wrote was ok. I respect the show’s creative team for trying something new. But it didn’t work as well as it could have. ‘Crossed Up’ should have been placed somewhere in the first season. In that context, the things the characters in Jessica’s life are saying would make more sense. It also doesn’t help that Jessica doesn’t play a big role in this story. This episode kind of defeated the purpose of the show’s title.

 

Rating: A mid 3 out of 5

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This shot of the house showcases just how grand this location is! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What are your thoughts on these reviews? Are they any episodes of Murder, She Wrote you’d like me to discuss? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun in Cabot Cove!

Sally Silverscreen

 

Take 3: Gaslight Review + 155 Follower Thank You

In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d use this review to express my gratitude toward my readers and followers by taking a suggestion from one of my readers. Back in July, when I reviewed Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Emily, from The Flapper Dame, recommended a film called Gaslight. As I told her, I had heard of the film, but had never seen it. Fortunately, I had this movie on my DVR for several months. This means that I now had an excuse to finally watch this film! I don’t often receive film recommendations on 18 Cinema Lane. But, when I do, I try my best to review each film and acknowledge the person who told me about it. This happened when I reviewed The Santa Incident last December. Since I have acquired several suggestions within my year of blogging, I have created a list to keep track of the films. This is so I know which ones I’m able to rent or record on my DVR. Maybe I can find a way to create a tradition around these suggestions!

Gaslight poster
Gaslight poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/166/Gaslight/#.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Prior to watching Gaslight, I had seen a few of Ingrid Bergman’s films. But, to me, her portrayal of Paula is one the best I’ve seen from her filmography! What makes this performance so good is how expressive Ingrid is. She’s able to change her expressions at a moment’s notice, causing Ingrid’s portrayal to appear fluid and natural. I was pleasantly surprised to see Angela Lansbury star in this film! I’ve never seen any of Angela’s live-action films, as the only live-action project of hers that I’ve seen is Murder, She Wrote. However, it was nice to see her portray a character that is different from what I’m used to. Angela brought a sense of sass to her character, Nancy. Her interactions with the other characters was interesting because of how different her personality was from the other members of that household. Though her on-screen presence was limited, Angela found a way to shine with the material she was given!

 

The lighting: I wasn’t expecting anything special from the film’s lighting. But, when I watched Gaslight, I found the lighting to be one of the most memorable parts! In the London scenes, when it was night-time, the lighting reminded me of a noir film. What I mean by this is how the light is primarily dim and obstructed by another source. In the case of Gaslight, this source was fog. A common practice in this film was the use of shadows. This helped add a sense of mysteriousness to the story, as there was an uncertainty about the people who caused those shadows. One scene that used lighting in a creative way was when Paula and Gregory entered the drawing room of their London home for the first time. In this scene, the only light came from the outside. This means the shadow of the window’s blinds reflected off of these two characters.

 

The set design: Gaslight takes place during the Victorian era. As I’ve said in reviews for other period films, the sets in this movie appeared authentic to that specific time period. It shows that the creative team truly cared about the film they were making. It also shows that thorough research had been done during the pre-production stage of the project. The sets were very massive in scale, presenting the grandeur that would have been found within the world of these characters. It also helps that the architecture made these structures feel life-like. My favorite of this collection is the hotel where Paula and Gregory spent their honeymoon. While the exterior was the primary focus of this scene, it was still impressive to look at. The location itself seemed inviting and charming, like it would be a prime destination for anyone’s vacation.

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Sketch of London image created by Archjoe at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-houses-of-parliament_1133950.htm’>Designed by Archjoe</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Archjoe – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some of the accents: Like I’ve said in other reviews, accents in films can be hit or miss. In Gaslight, the accents sounded authentic and believable. But there were times when it was difficult to understand what some of the characters were saying. This was the case for Gregory Anton. At several moments, I found myself rewinding the movie in an attempt to hear what he was saying. This definitely took away some enjoyment from the film.

 

Some under-utilized characters: In this movie, I found some of the characters to be under-utilized more than they should have been. One example is the neighbor of Paula and Gregory, who Paula met on a train prior to the couple moving to London. Based on her first encounter with the protagonist, I thought she was going to play a larger role in the overall narrative. Sadly, it just felt like she was there for the sake of being there. Had this character been removed from the story, I don’t think it would have made much of a difference.

 

The mystery’s resolution: When a movie features a mystery, its resolution usually takes place during the film’s climax. This decision is made to not only make the moment feel big and action-packed, but it’s also made to get a reaction from the audience. I will not spoil Gaslight for anyone who hasn’t seen this movie. But I found this mystery’s resolution to be anti-climactic. The scenes involving the resolution were well-written and interesting. However, they failed to feel big or action-packed. Something that hurt them was how one particular confrontation was not shown on screen. I understand that this film was released during the Breen Code era. However, the confrontation’s absence took away from some of the climax’s excitement.

Gaslight choker necklace picture
Is it just me or is Paula’s choker necklace just the cutest piece of jewelry? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

Gaslight is the third mystery movie I have reviewed this November. Maybe it’s to make up for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries taking a break from making mystery films due to the Christmas/holiday season. In all seriousness, I think the mystery aspect of Gaslight was the best out of those three films! While it had its issues, it was still the most compelling. I can now agree with Emily, from The Flapper Dame, that this is a good movie! Even though it is a “slow burn” story, it works for the overall picture. This allows for the events to happen at their own pace, which made elements of the story grow organically. If you have the patience, this is a movie you might enjoy. As this review is meant to celebrate receiving 155 followers on 18 Cinema Lane, I’d like to thank each of my followers for choosing to support my blog. When I first started my blogging journey, I never imagined achieving such a large number of followers this quickly. However, I’m very thankful for the success I have earned. I’d also like to thank Emily for recommending Gaslight to me. I appreciate when readers leave comments on my blog, so I was more than happy to choose this movie for this review!

 

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

 

Have you ever seen Gaslight? Are there any movies you’d like to recommend to me? Tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Sally Watches… Murder, She Wrote!

On the Youtube channel, Hallmarkies Podcast, there is a series of videos called “Amber Makes Rachel Watch”. In this series, Amber, one of the hostesses of Hallmarkies Podcast, introduces Rachel, her friend and fellow Hallmarkies Podcast hostess, to television shows that she has never seen before. This inspired me to broaden my television horizons for the Mystery Mania blogathon. You’d think with the amount of content I watch and talk about from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, I would have gotten around to watching Murder, She Wrote. Well, to say it honestly, I’ve never seen any episodes of the show…until now. For this special post, I will review three episodes of the show that I have chosen at random. Because Hallmark Movies & Mysteries regularly airs re-runs of Murder, She Wrote, I was able to easily access these episodes by recording them on my television. Throughout this blogathon entry, I will break down each episode and share what I liked about it, what I didn’t like about it, the mystery within the episode, and the other factors from the episode. I will also be sharing my overall thoughts not just about each episode, but about the show as a whole, based on the three episodes that I’ve seen. Now that this introduction is finished, let’s have Sally watch Murder, She Wrote!

Mystery Mania Blogathon banner
Mystery Mania Blogathon banner created by Robin from Pop Culture Reverie. Image found at https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/2019/01/22/announcing-the-mystery-mania-blogathon/.

Episode Name: The Legacy of Borbey House

Season 10, Episode 3

Premiere Date: October 3rd, 1993

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The title card for “The Legacy of Borbey House”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

The acting was definitely one of the stronger components of this episode! Within this cast, there were three actors that gave stand-out performances. The first is David Birney, who portrayed Lawrence Baker. Even though his on-screen appearance was very limited, David did a good job at making his character equally charismatic and suspicious. Roy Dotrice also gave a memorable performance as Dr. Howard Sorenson. All of his reactions appeared believable and Dr. Sorenson’s enthusiasm for the subject of vampires seemed genuine. The last stand-out performance came from Gary Hershberger. His portrayal of Dave Perrin was one of the most well-rounded performances in this entire episode, giving this character the emotional depth that kept me invested in his story.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

When I read the synopsis for this episode, I was excited to see how the subject of vampires would be incorporated within the overall narrative. Before I watched “The Legacy of Borbey House”, I thought this subject would play such a large role in the story, that various characters would have continuous competitions to see who could drop the most vampire related pop cultural references in one sitting. Unfortunately, this was not the case. In the overall context of the episode, the subject of vampires seemed like an afterthought. While it was addressed to a certain extent, it was never explored enough to keep me satisfied. If anything, the most talked about subject in this episode was the various renovations that were taking place in the town of Cabot Cove.

 

The mystery itself:

Honestly, I was very disappointed in this mystery. The entire first half of the episode was dedicated to exposition and build-up to the mystery. The myself itself, however, didn’t start until the halfway point. Several moments after this happened, Jessica ends up solving the mystery single-handedly based on one photo she was given from her acquaintance. Because of this, it didn’t give the audience a chance to solve the mystery alongside Jessica. This made the mystery not engaging or interactive.

 

The other factors from this episode:

There were three things within this episode that stood out to me. They are:

  • The opening scene when Dr. Sorenson pops out of the grave was so random, that it was hilarious!
  • Even though the Borbey House wasn’t on-screen for long, its architecture and décor were gorgeous! I have no idea if this is a real-life house or just a television show set.
  • I really liked the brief discussion about how different people view topics relating to belief systems and the supernatural. This added depth not only for the episode’s story, but also for the characters.

 

My overall thoughts:

At best, “The Legacy of Borbey House” was just ok. But, at worst, I found it to be disappointing. Instead of an engaging mystery featuring the topic of vampires, I ended up getting an episode that treated renovations as if they represented social status. The mystery in “The Legacy of Borbey House” was not very well-written. In fact, this episode didn’t really talk about the “legacy” that was referenced in the title. Yes, there was a myth about vampires being associated with the Borbey family. However, this concept was not explored in this episode. If this episode were given an honest title, it would be called “The Legacy of Cabot Cove’s Renovations”.

 

Rating: A low 3 out of 5

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This book seems a lot more interesting than the episode I ended up watching. I wonder if this book has a chapter about Lestat and Jesse’s relationship? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Episode Name: Film Flam

Season 11, Episode 16

Premiere Date: February 19th, 1995

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The title card for “Film Flam”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

I really liked seeing the different steps that are involved in the process of bringing a movie to its premiere stage. As someone who likes movies and appreciates the movie-making process, I thought this portion of the episode was very interesting and educational. Even though I knew that planning and hosting a movie premiere required a lot of time and effort, this episode opened my eyes to some of the aspects that could affect a movie’s release. In “Film Flam”, the creative, business, and legal areas associated with a particular film were represented. This episode also discussed the various people and situations that could also affect a movie premiere as well as the film itself. I thought this topic was not only well explored, but also effortlessly woven into the overall narrative.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

In this mystery, I thought that the guilty culprit was a little bit obvious. As soon as they introduced themselves and revealed some of their back-story, I immediately knew that they must have something to do with the crime. After everything was said and done, I ended up being correct in my guess of “whodunit”.

 

The mystery itself:

The mystery in “Film Flam” was much better than in “The Legacy of Borbey House”! While the first half of the episode was still dedicated to exposition and build-up to the mystery, it was also paired with the behind-the-scenes aspect of coordinating a movie premiere. These two elements balanced out the story really well. There was also enough room for the audience to solve the mystery alongside Jessica. This allowed for the mystery to be interactive and intriguing. With various suspects and clues, I thought that “Film Flam” was a well-written mystery story!

 

The other factors from this episode:

Here are some of the things that caught my attention while I watched “Film Flam”:

  • Whoever scouted locations for this show did a really good job at choosing gorgeous houses! Fritz’s house in “Film Flam” was beautiful, both in architecture and design/décor.
  • Whenever Elaine Brown and Darryl Harding appeared on-screen together, I could sense strong on-screen chemistry between Jim Caviezel and Stacy Edwards. Because of this, I was really hoping that Elaine and Darryl would, at least, start a romantic relationship by the end of the episode. While this is only assumed, based on the fact that Darryl and Elaine were holding hands toward the end of “Film Flam”, I’m hoping these two characters appeared in other episodes. That way, there could be a chance for them to receive their “happily-ever-after”.
  • I won’t spoil anything if you haven’t seen this episode. However, all I will say is when the guilty culprit reveals why they committed the crime, I found their explanation to be very creepy.

 

My overall thoughts:

I really liked this episode! It combined a well-written mystery story with something that I love; movies. Because this episode centered around the process of a movie premiere, I feel like I gained valuable and educational information about what it takes to coordinate an event like this. “Film Flam” was both intriguing and engaging, things that I think a good mystery should be. While the guilty culprit was a little bit obvious, I still enjoyed the experience of trying to solve the mystery alongside Jessica. Even though I’ve only seen two episodes of Murder, She Wrote so far, I would be willing to guess that this story was one of the show’s stronger episodes.

 

Rating: A 4.7 out of 5

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Honestly, seeing Darryl and Elaine’s relationship progress as this episode went on was, for me, a highlight of “Film Flam”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Episode Name: School for Murder

Season 11, Episode 19

Premiere Date: April 30th, 1995

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The title card for “School for Murder”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

I liked how some of the students of St. Crispin’s Academy were able to play a role within the overall narrative. When reading the description for “School for Murder”, I wasn’t sure if any of the students were going to be prominently featured in the episode. Even though I’ve now only seen three episodes of the show, I’ve noticed that there aren’t many opportunities for young people to be included in the overall story. So, it was nice to see these students incorporated into this episode.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

I wasn’t a fan of St. Crispin’s Academy’s “secret society”. Because of the inclusion of this story element, it felt like there was too much going on in this episode. It also felt like the screenwriters were trying to accomplish too much in one story. While this “secret society” did play a role within the overall narrative, it just seemed like it didn’t need to be there.

 

The mystery itself:

The mystery in “School for Murder” was very interesting. There was not only a primary mystery, but there were also two sub-mysteries. All three of these mysteries were connected to each other in some way. I thought this was a very unique approach to the story-telling aspect of this episode, especially compared to the previous two episodes that I’ve seen. There were also a few surprises that I did not see coming. Added with enough room for the audience to solve the mystery alongside Jessica, the mystery story of “School for Murder” stood out from the rest.

 

The other factors from this episode:

In this episode, there were only two things that stood out to me. These are:

  • I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record, but whoever was the location scout for this show knew what they were doing when it came to choosing the locations for Murder, She Wrote. St. Crispin’s Academy was a really nice-looking facility! Like with the Borbey House in “The Legacy of Borbey House”, I’m not sure if St. Crispin’s Academy is a real place or just a set.
  • I’m not going to spoil anything if you haven’t seen this episode. But I thought the way the guilty party was written was very interesting. Instead of being deceitful or hateful, like the guilty parties in “The Legacy of Borbey House” and “Film Flam”, the guilty party in “School for Murder” was portrayed in a more human and realistic way. To me, this was a unique departure from the aforementioned episodes.

 

My overall thoughts:

While “School for Murder” was ok, it wasn’t as disappointing as “The Legacy of Borbey House”. There were too many story elements associated with this episode, which caused this story to feel too jam-packed. However, “School for Murder” did have some merits. One of them is the inclusion of young people in the overall narrative. These merits and strengths added something interesting to this episode. It made “School for Murder” somewhat different from “The Legacy of Borbey House” and “Film Flam”. I wonder if the other episodes of Murder, She Wrote took creative approaches to its use of story-telling?

 

Rating: A 3.2 out of 5

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This facility definitely looked the part of an well-respected, private school. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
My final assessment:

So, now is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. What do I think of Murder, She Wrote? Overall, the show is fine. If I had nothing else to do and if my options for what to watch on television were limited, I would definitely watch an episode or two. Something that I noticed when I watched these episodes was that the overall quality of the show was not consistent. Out of the three episodes that I saw, I really liked only one of them. The other two were just ok. But no television show is perfect and some episodes are bound to be better than others. If you’re like me and have never seen Murder, She Wrote before, I would definitely recommend it! Just pick a few episodes and then decide if this show is for you. The great thing about Murder, She Wrote is that it doesn’t really rely on an over-arcing story. This makes it easy to watch any episode without having to watch its predecessors.

 

Have you ever watched Murder, She Wrote? Would you like me to review other episodes of the show? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun in Cabot Cove!

Sally Silverscreen