Six Months of Movie Morlocks: May – Oct. 2016

It’s been an interesting, busy and to be honest, an extremely stressful year due to some ongoing medical issues I’m dealing with that you can read more about here: Vertigo: Hitchcock was wrong.

In turn, I’ve been terribly lax about updating the blog but due to looming work related developments that I’ll be sharing soon, I thought it was time to finally play catch up with Cinebeats’ readers. What follows are links to some of the most interesting (in my estimation) writing I’ve done for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog during the past six months.

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Spotlight on AIP with Roger Corman
Mistress of Menace: Barbara Steele in The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Sexual Revolution on Campus – Three in the Attic (1968)
Robert Fuest & His Abominable Creations
Revisiting The Terror (1963) on Blu-ray
TCM Star of the Month: Olivia de Havilland @ 100
Summer Reading Suggestions

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The Whole World is Watching: Medium Cool (1969)
Poster Gallery: Remembering Jack Davis 1924-2016
Fay Wray: The Clairvoyant (1934)
Roddy McDowall: Celebrity Photographer
Angie Dickinson in Cry Terror! (1958)
A Grand & Moving Thing: The King and I (1956)

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Offbeat Otto: Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970)
52 Films By Women: #52FilmsByWomen
Out of the Closet: Tab Hunter Confidential (2015)
My Visit to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Paranormal Police Procedural: Nothing But the Night (1972)
The Amazing, Amazing Mr. X (1948)

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Happy New Year! + Nov. & Dec. at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

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Happy New Year. So much to say and so little time to say it. Instead, I’ll save my rambling end of the year diatribe for another day and leave you with some links to the film writing I’ve done at TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog during the past few months. Cheers!

November:
Another Hole in the Head 2015: 11 Days of Indie Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy in San Francisco!
Excerpt: “In the words of festival programmer Michael Guillen, Another Hole in the Head is “characterized by a scrappy, DIY aesthetic that eschews big studio content and recent trends towards elevated genre. Holehead’s programming remains curatorially committed to the genre’s graphic roots in shockploitation, visceral thrills and gleeful mayhem.” As a genre film fan with a particular interest in horror I was intrigued by Guillen’s joyful and graphic description so I decided to ask him a few questions about the festival and his programming selections this year.”
Federico Fellini: The Cartoonist
Excerpt: “Fellini’s propensity toward the absurd emerged early in life. As a child, he began drawing caricatures of film stars he saw in movies and as a young adult he found work as a cartoonist and gag writer for a number of Italian newspapers, humor publications and comic books. He eventually began writing comedy scripts for radio but WW2 derailed his writing career and following the Allied liberation of Rome in 1944, Fellini opened the Funny Face Shop where he worked as a caricature artist and expressed an interest in animation. It was here that Fellini met the renowned filmmaker Roberto Rossellini who was so impressed with his sense of humor that he was asked to co-write the film script for Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945) and the rest, as they say, is history. Fellini soon began working as an apprentice for Rossellini and ultimately started directing his own films but he never stopped drawing cartoons and caricatures.”
Life Advice from Douglas Fairbanks
Excerpt: “The ideas expressed in the books are often ridiculously simplistic and there is a lot of focus on physical fitness, which preoccupied much of Fairbanks’s time. The actor’s fixation with exercise and maintaining his health is typical of someone whose career relies on him being physically fit but it’s also a rather modern approach to living that predates our current preoccupation with good health and Hollywood’s obsession with body image. In retrospect, Fairbanks’s health advice seems somewhat ironic considering we now know he died at the young age of 52 following a heart attack. It’s an unfortunate reminder that despite our best efforts death is unavoidable and waits for no one.”
Remembering Bruce Lee on his 75th Birthday
Excerpt: “My own affection for Bruce Lee began when I was just a kid. I became aware of the actor and director when he died in 1973, which was the same year I lost my own father. For a number of reasons, including their similar age and the fact that Lee’s passing garnered massive publicity at the time, their deaths were inevitably linked in my head and heart. There were plenty of other celebrity deaths in 1973, including Lon Chaney Jr. and Edward G. Robinson, but neither generated the kind of worldwide public mourning and media attention that followed in the wake of Bruce Lee’s passing. Afterward the celebrated martial artist was catapulted into sainthood while my father remained a saint in my own mind. However, when I think of one man I frequently think of the other. Both left this world suddenly, without warning, and much too soon.”

December:
Movie Book Round-Up: The Holiday Edition
Excerpt: “Since I began writing for the Movie Morlocks five years ago I typically compile a blog post with summer reading suggestions or a list of favorite film related books released at the end of the year. This year I’ve had access to so many great books that I decided to compile two book lists . . . What follows is my ‘Holiday Edition’ where I share some of the best books (pictured above) that I’ve encountered since July. I hope both lists will encourage you to do some reading during the holidays or provide you with some shopping suggestions while you’re purchasing gifts for fellow film buffs.”
Nippon Noir: Snow Trail (1947)
Excerpt: “Senkichi Taniguchi’s Show Trail aka Ginrei no hate (1947) begins with a bang. A montage of shadowy figures and fragmented images bombards viewers during the film’s opening credits while guns fire, alarms ring, windows break, trains whistle and sirens scream. We soon discover that three desperate men (Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura and Yoshio Kosugi) have just robbed a bank and in a bold attempt to dodge authorities they make a dangerous trip to Northern Japan where they hope to lose their pursuers in the snow covered Alps . . . This highly suspenseful, genuinely moving and remarkably inventive film marks the screen introduction of many notable talents. Chief among them is 27-year-old Toshiro Mifune who makes his screen debut here and would eventually become one of Japan’s most acclaimed and beloved actors.”
Pioneering Women: Disney Artists Mary Blair & Thelma Witmer
Excerpt: “While pursuing the credits for So Dear to My Heart and the animated short Corn Chips I noticed that they included work done by two female animation artists I admire, Mary Blair and Thelma Witmer. Women are not typically associated with animation and they tend to be excluded from histories about the subject but thanks to a number of recent books and exhibits, Mary Blair’s career has gone through a reevaluation and she’s become widely recognized as one of Walt Disney Studio’s most original and influential talents. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of background artist Thelma Witmer who worked with Disney for more than 20 years but remains largely unknown.”
The Thin Man Marathon: Conjugal Concord
Excerpt: “There are many reasons to love the Thin Man films. They’re smart, funny, sophisticated and flat out entertaining mysteries but I’m particularly fond of the way they make marriage look so damn fun. Nick and Nora are best pals as well as romantic mates and their breezy back-and-forth banter suggests an intimacy that is sadly missing from many depictions of marriage on screen. Best of all, they share a similar sense of humor and as the old maxim goes, ‘a couple that laughs together, stays together.'”

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I’ve also been doing some promotional writing for TCM’s new Wine Club including a brief piece about wine in the movies that you can find here:
A Brief History of Wine in the Movies

6 Months of Film Writing

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I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting Cinebeats again but I’ve been busy with various personal projects and obligations. I’ve also recently started writing for Publishers Weekly but I thought I’d finally update with some highlights from TCM’s Movie Morlocks. Here’s some of the more interesting (in my estimation) film related writing & entertaining babble I’ve produced in the last 6 months. You might notice that the topics I cover have gotten a little “lighter” in content and that’s by design. TCM’s blog readers generally prefer light reading about familiar topics so I’ve been trying to accommodate them more often.

March, 2015:
Superhero Saturdays on TCM: BATMAN (1943)
Bold! Noble! Daring! BATWOMAN (1968)
William Mortensen in Hollywood
Hammer Noir: A Poster Gallery
April, 2015:
“Robbery & Murder Were Their Code of Living!” – THE CATS (1968)
A Troy Donahue Top 10
Cooking with Sophia Loren
Orson Welles at One Hundred
May, 2015:
Think Pink: The Enduring Appeal of Lady Penelope
Two on the Run: DEADLY STRANGERS (1975)
The Hollywood Style
June, 2015:
Hollywood Comes to Hearst Castle: Memories & Musings
Men Among Monsters: Remembering Christopher Lee & Richard Johnson
Bugging Out! A Poster Gallery
Classic Hollywood Actors Discuss Women, Beauty & Femininity with Arlene Dahl
July, 2015:
Underrated ’65
Elisabeth Lutyens: Horror Queen of Film Composers
Midsummer Reading Suggestions
Q&A: Michael Kronenberg From the Film Noir Foundation
Birdwatching in Bodega Bay
August, 2015:
A Few Fun Facts About Michael Caine
The Kitten & The Cowboy: When Ann-Margret Met The Duke
Mae Clarke: Frankenstein’s First Bride
Closing Act: Shelley Winters

October & November at the Movie Morlocks

SORCERORSLinks to my posts at the TCM’s Movie Morlocks October – November.

Ghost Stories: THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES (1946)
Excerpt: “THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES is often referred to as an “Abbott and Costello movie for people who don’t like Abbott and Costello” but as a fan of the comic duo I find that proclamation a bit off base. The film does distinguish itself from the popular formula pictures they made during this period that often contained well-honed routines and the two funny men don’t exchange much direct dialogue but it still contains the same kind of slapstick humor and fast-paced jokes that made them one of the most beloved comedy teams in Hollywood during the 1940s.”

Freak Shows: Come one, come all to the Scariest Show On Earth!
Excerpt: “The award-winning horror anthology’s latest incarnation is called FREAK SHOW and it’s set in Florida during the 1950s at a circus sideshow where strange goings-on take place in and outside of the Big Top. The show’s creators, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck, have admitted in recent interviews that they found inspiration for the new season in two classic horror films, Tod Browning’s FREAKS (1932) and Herk Harvey’s CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962) but circuses and carnivals have long been a staple of horror cinema and director Tod Browning used the sideshow as a setting for numerous uncanny films before he made FREAKS. With Shocktober upon us it seems as good a time as any to showcase some of my favorite horrific or just plain odd and unusual films with scary clowns and sideshow performers that paved the way for AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW.”

Aaahoo! She-Wolf of London (1946)
Excerpt: “What I really appreciate about this short 61 minute movie is its unique female protagonists as well as its low-key shocks that only register after you’ve had time to digest the film’s streamlined plot. The four most interesting characters in SHE-WOLF OF LONDON, include Phyllis, her aunt Martha as well as her female cousin and the quietly lurking housekeeper Hannah (Eily Malyon). The men in the movie are merely romantic love interests, victims of the werewolf (the beast doesn’t kill any women) or hapless police investigators who do very little to move the plot along, which must have puzzled some viewers who were expecting the men to take control of the situation and save the day. In most Universal monster movies that’s exactly what they’d typically do but this isn’t a typical monster movie.”

Mummy Dearest
Excerpt: “Hammer Films produced four Mummy movies between 1959 and 1971 and this coming Saturday (Oct. 25th) TCM is airing one of my favorites, Seth Holt’s BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1971). This unabashedly sexy horror extravaganza was the last Mummy movie produced by the ‘Studio that Dripped Blood’ and thanks to a great cast and some creative directing choices it turned out to be one of their best. But before it reached the screen the production was plagued by some serious setbacks that seemed to resemble the effects of a ‘mummy’s curse’ that’s often associated with doomed adventure seekers and tomb raiders. Was it just circumstance and bad luck or did something supernatural interfere with the making of the film? Read on to find out!”

Halloween Viewing Recommendations with a Feminine Touch
Excerpt: “…I decided to ask some of my favorite female film journalists who also happen to be fellow horror devotees to join me in recommending one movie from TCM’s Halloween line-up for your viewing pleasure. I think you’ll enjoy our enthusiastic endorsements but you might want to approach them with caution. A few contain minor spoilers along with some surprising scares but I hope that won’t stop you from joining us in celebrating Halloween with TCM. Demonic monsters, scary chauffeurs and axe-wielding killers are just a few of the shocking thrills that await you!”

Mind Over Matter: THE SORCERERS (1967)
Excerpt: “Since Michael Reeves unfortunate death in 1969 at the age of 25, the British director’s life has become the stuff of cinematic legend. His reputation as a sort of Byronic hero who challenged the British film establishment was secured when he died much too young due to an accidental drug overdose leaving behind just a handful of low-budget horror films that attained cult status in subsequent years. His distinct talent and the ephemeral nature of his work have led many of Reeve’s colleagues and admirers to speculate on the direction his career might have taken if he had lived longer and it’s not uncommon to see his name mentioned along with better known British filmmakers who also dealt with controversial material including Michael Powell and Ken Russell. Reeves’ bone-chilling WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1969), which explored the brutality of the witch hunts in England during the 17th century, is often cited as one of the greatest and most gruesome horror films produced during the 1960s but his most intimate and introspective film might be THE SORCERERS (1967).”

Artist, Activist & Star-Maker: Photographer Eliot Elisofon
Excerpt: “When I first started writing about Hollywood glamor photography here at the Movie Morlocks, one of the photographers I was particularly keen on featuring was Eliot Elisofon. His captivating images of numerous Hollywood stars have mesmerized me for decades but back in 2010 there was very little information about the man available online. This year that changed significantly thanks to the Smithsonian museum, which launched the first retrospective of Elisofon’s photography at the National Museum of African Art.”

10 Things You Might Not Know About Rod Taylor
Excerpt: “I’ve always liked Rod Taylor. The broad shouldered, barrel-chested actor with a booming voice is intimidating on screen but there’s a warmth in his smile that’s undeniably inviting. He was universally good in every film genre he took part in and made the challenging transition from serious drama to action movies, thrillers and romantic comedies seem effortless. He was at home in military fatigues or a three piece suit and that breadth and depth of character makes him extremely fun to watch. Tonight TCM viewers can tune in and catch Taylor in a few of his best films including THE BIRDS (1963), THE TIME MACHINE (1960), DARK OF THE SUN (1968), SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963) and HOTEL (1967) so it seemed like a good time to share some of the interesting facts I recently discovered about him after reading Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood.”

June & July at the Movie Morlocks

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I haven’t been online much the last few months for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I’ve been having some medical problems with my left eye and spending lots of time on my computer reading, watching vids and writing can often be problematic. My eyes get easily irritated and I’m prone to headaches, etc. The other reason is simple net fatigue, particularly on social media sites such as Facebook & Twitter where petty bickering, herd-like behavior and one-upmanship among film fans, critics and journalists can become unbearably tiresome. With that out of the way, I want to apologize to anyone you visits Cinebeats often hoping for new updates (excuses I know… but I seem to be suffering from an extreme case of weltschmerz this year) but you can still find me regularly posting on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog and I occasionally write articles for TCM’s website. Here are some links to things I’ve written in the last few months:

They Wore It Well: Actors & Mustaches: “Mustaches of all shapes, sizes, widths and weights have long been part our movie history so it’s easy to take them for granted. But a good mustache can have power and presence in the movies and many actors have made great use of their facial hair to seduce costars, entice laughter and menace their enemies.”

Hammer Noir: Terence Fisher’s STOLEN FACE (1952): “While a few of the Fisher’s earlier films, such as SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950), hinted at his penchant for gothic fantasy and costume drama, STOLEN FACE gave the director the opportunity to begin exploring (and exploiting) his apparent fascination with science, philosophy, psychology and medicine that would later permeate his full-color horror films made for Hammer. Amid the noir elements and abundant melodrama that can be found in STOLEN FACE, Fisher spends a noticeable amount of time lingering on strange medical devices while focusing on the doctor’s interactions with patents and colleagues. The doctor also makes a noteworthy trip to a pub where he mingles with some inquisitive locals. This seemingly innocuous event became a staple in Fisher’s horror films…”

Summer Reading Suggestions: “Like many people, I tend to do a lot of reading when the weather warms up and with summer officially about to start on June 21st I thought it would be a good time to share some of the books I’ve been enjoying with my fellow film buffs. My own tastes tend to be somewhat eclectic but I hope readers of all types and stripes will find something that piques their interest when pursuing my list of Summer Reading Suggestions.”

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“I wonder if my brother remembers his brother?” – Remembering Eli Wallach 1915-2014: “Leone famously liked to shoot his actors in extreme close-up or in sweeping wide shots where they were barely visible. But Wallach instinctively knew how to make the most of his screen time and easily navigates between these two very different modes of filmmaking. His eyes speak volumes when Leone’s camera zooms in for a signature close-up but when the director’s camera is out of sight Wallach skillfully used his body language to define his character from a distance. Many actors would get lost in the vast deserts, dilapidated cemeteries and shabby old towns that make up Leone’s film but Wallach seamlessly becomes part of the landscape. We know he’s there even when we can’t see him.”

When Fact Mirrors Fiction: AGATHA (1979): “Redgrave and Hoffman make an unlikely pair and some critics apparently found their height difference distracting but I think the two actors have an incredible chemistry on screen. Redgrave seems to be channeling Garbo while Hoffman displays the kind of arrogant charm that made William Powell so likable. Both performers have rarely been as vulnerable, sympathetic, affable and flat out sexy as they are here, which is partially due to the way they interact and seem to identify with one another’s characters. Their unconventional but utterly convincing on-screen romance is one of the many reasons why I find AGATHA so compelling.”

The Malaise of the Ghetto: LA HAINE (1995): “The broad appeal of Kassovitz’s film can also be traced to another film that mesmerized young audiences in 1955, Nicholas Ray’s timeless classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. Both films focus on a troubled threesome who form a makeshift family during the span of 24 hours. The neighborhood fighting might be on a much smaller scale and the suburban hood of 1955 Los Angeles appears much more inviting than the suburban slums of 1995 Paris, but both movies use the threat of gun violence to their credit. Neither Plato (Sal Mineo) nor Vinz (Vincent Cassel) can fully comprehend the lethal power of the weapons they’re carrying and their shared desire for some kind of notoriety or control in the face of an indifferent world is something many young people can unfortunately sympathize with . Does LA HAINE have the staying power of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE? That remains to be seen.”

A Century of Scares: Happy Birthday Bava!: “This week marks the 100th birthday of Mario Bava who was born on July 30th (according to leading Bava researcher Tim Lucas and author of the essential Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark) or 31st (if you want to believe IMDB.com and Wikipedia). The brilliant Italian director, cinematographer, special effects artist and screenwriter died in 1980 but today he’s fondly remembered by horror film enthusiasts as the Maestro of the Macabre. Bava has long been one of my favorite filmmakers so I couldn’t let this important anniversary pass without acknowledging his artistry.”

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November at the Movie Morlocks

Apologies for neglecting Cinebeats for a month but I’ve been preoccupied with other things. I took some much needed vacations in late October and November to spend time with family and in the meantime I’ve just been too busy to update the blog. I don’t see things changing much in December due to the holidays and other commitments but I’ll try to make a few more updates next month. In the meantime here are some links to my recent posts at TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in case you missed them.

“It’s my blood. I gave it to you.”: A few thoughts about the state of modern horror films along with my take on the independent British/Romanian vampire film STRIGOI (2009).

Ralph Nelson’s DUEL AT DIABLO (1966): A look at Anderson’s undervalued western DUEL AT DIABLO featuring a very young and very handsome Sidney Poitier in one of his signature roles.

Art Meets Artifice in Shohei Imamura’s A MAN VANISHES (1967): Icarus Films recently premiered Shohei Imamura’s 1967 film A MAN VANISHES in New York and a DVD release is planned for the future. I got the opportunity to view the film before the premiere and shared my thoughts about it at the Movie Morlocks.

Spy Games: James Bond is back in SKYFALL (2012): I’ve been looking forward to seeing SKYFALL all year and the film didn’t disappoint. In my latest installment of Spy Games I explain why the film worked for me and explore how Daniel Craig has reshaped the character of James Bond.

Yul Brynner, Photographer Extraordinaire: We all know that Yul Brynner was an accomplished actor but did you also know that he was a talented photographer who enjoyed snapping pictures of his famous friends? I gathered together some of his best photographs and briefly discussed his photography background in this piece that’s light on words and full of eye-candy.

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Discovering New Territory in Southeast Asian Cinema

One of my favorite film blogs is Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee run by Peter Nellhaus who spends a lot of his time writing about Asian films. While I appreciate the diversity of his writing I find his focus on Asian cinema particularly appealing. Peter has recently contributed to an interesting book about the rich history of Southeast Asian Cinema simply called Southeast Asian Cinema that I reviewed at the Movie Morlocks last week. Here’s a brief blurb from my review:

Southeast Asian cinema is an area I’m not all that familiar with. I’ve only seen a small number of movies made in that region of the world and almost all of them have been horror films or unusual exploitation movies with limited appeal. This is partially due to the fact that horror is my favorite film genre and usually the first avenue I explore when I’m curious about a specific country’s cinematic output. But the restricted availability of Southeast Asian films combined with scant information about the movies being made there has also dictated what I’ve chosen to watch. Thankfully the various barriers that have limited my own appreciation of Southeast Asian cinema are slowly shifting as more and more films from the area are released in the US.

At the cusp of this sea change comes a welcome new book and accompanying DVD published by Asiexpo simply titled Southeast Asian Cinema. This bilingual book featuring both English and French text promises to shine some much needed light on the film history of the region as well as the people who make the movies and the numerous obstacles they face while attempting to reach a wider audience.

You’ll find the rest of my review at the Movie Morlocks.
Discovering New Territory in Southeast Asian Cinema @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks

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Summer Reading

From my latest for the Morlocks

“I do a lot of reading all year long but during the summer months I tend to set aside some extra time to catch up with the books that have accumulated on my shelves. This is partially due to a habit I developed as a child. While other kids were outside playing and enjoying the bright sunshine I could often be found in my bedroom pouring over a good book. Even when my family would go on vacation I would always stick a book in my suitcase or duffel bag. For better or worse, many of my fondest childhood memories involve books that I read during the sweltering summer months while on camping trips and during long plane flights to visit grandparents. This summer I’ve started habitually reading some interesting non-fiction film related books so I thought I’d share some recent discoveries.”

I included some older books in my write-up such as Heroes of the Horrors (1975) and Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film (2005) but I also include two 2012 releases, Restless Souls: The Sharon Tate Family’s Account of Stardom, the Manson Murders, and a Crusade for Justice along with Robert Sellers’ Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down: How One Generation of British Actors Changed the World.

Follow the link for more …
Summer Reading @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks

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Sherlock Holmes On Screen

Last week I reviewed Alan Barnes book Sherlock Holmes On Screen for the Movie Morlocks. Here’s a brief excerpt from my review:

“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime solving super sleuth has been the subject of numerous films and television shows over the years. How numerous? According to author Alan Barnes, Sherlock Holmes has appeared on big and small screens more times than any other fictional character. In his recently updated book, Sherlock Holmes On Screen, Barnes sets out to solidify that claim by compiling an alphabetical list of the detective’s numerous film and television appearances. But Barnes’ book isn’t merely a list of titles. Each film and television show receives its own write-up with detailed information about the production and its place in the ever-growing Sherlock Holmes’ canon.”

Want to read more? Follow the link:
“Sherlock Holmes On Screen” @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog