Sunday, 3 July 2022

double indemnity

Premiering in Baltimore on this day in 1944 before nation-wide release three days later, Billy Wilder’s (see previously) noir masterwork starred Fred MacMurray as an life insurance salesman and Barbara Stanwyck as a provocative housewife who conspire to murder the latter’s husband for the survivor benefit of his insurance policy, which has a clause that doubles the pay-out for freak accidents. Told in flashback, the score by Miklรณs Rรณszsa has a leitmotif of a running string tremolo to introduce the criminal activities of the partners against the husband.

Saturday, 12 February 2022


forum gallorum: step into this unassuming salon to inspect a piece of Roman London, reminiscent of discovering this shopping mall in Mainz—via Nag on the Lake  

burds: just a fun little cleanse—cartoony birds hopping about—via Waxy  

shred, white and blue: the totally normal and perfectly legal ways the White House handled official records 

neft daลŸlarฤฑ: a decaying offshore oil platform in the middle of the Caspian Sea  

the thoughtful spot: the Phrontistery (ฯ†ฯฮฟฮฝฯ„ฮนฯƒฯ„ฮฎฯฮนฮฟฮฝ, Greek for the thinking place) catalogues a treasury of rare and obscure words—via Kottke  

gumshoe: the bygone era of the hotel detective—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump  

be mine: the Lupercalia and the origins of Saint Valentine

Saturday, 10 July 2021

tatort, tรคtort
Arriving in Sweden, our first stop was the Brick Gothic, Art Nouveau town of Ystad that’s the setting of the popular detective series (Skandi-Krimi—whereas the Swedish near homophone just means a locality rather than a crime scene) called Wallander with the eponymous police inspector and enjoyed exploring the old town with mix of eras going back to medieval times plus a well appointed church and monastery.

Tracing the coastline south, we picked a campground in the pine dunes by the beach at Lรถderup. Cooking outdoors and pitching the tent and generally roughing it are part of the fun of course and I liked the beach view for doing the dishes. I noticed an innovative use for the ubiquitous IKEA squeegee, Lillnaggen, as a doorstop by camp staff that seemed quite fit to purpose. This campsite was a staging spot for the next day’s agenda with a trip first to the megalithic stone ship, Ale Stenar.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

watching the detectives

Adapted from the 1929 novel by Erich Kรคstner with screenplay written by Billy Wilder, the adventure film directed by Gerhard Lamprech Emil und die Detektive opened on this day in 1931 in Berlin at the Kurfรผrstendamm Theatre. The titular young boy is dispatched by his widowed mother from their provincial home on Neustadt (a generic anytown name, like Springfield, and usually appended to the name of the river it’s on) in the Weimar Republic (see also) to Berlin with a sum of money to deliver to his grandmother and cousin, Pony Hรผtchen. En route, Emil makes the mistake of accepting candy from a stranger, is knocked out and awakes to find the Marks missing. Emil then solicits help of neighbour youths who style themselves “detectives.” They eventually apprehend the stranger that mugged Emil, who is revealed to be a wanted bank robber and the gang receives a large award for his capture. Remade five times over the decades, the movie established several cinematic tropes including drugged sweets and innovative camera techniques.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

taxi nach leipzig

This evening, fifty years ago marked the first broadcast of the long running German crime serial Tatort (“crime scene”—see previously), a ninety-minute stand-alone case investigated by a familiar case of characters, on Sundays following the evening news at eight on channel NDR, Norddeutsch Rundfunk.

The premier episode revolved around the unidentified body of an adolescent discovered at a rest stop near Leipzig, and the East German authorities call on their Western counterparts for help when it is determined that the victim is wearing Western articles of clothing. The request for assistance is abruptly called off, prompting on of the West German detectives to launch his own investigation when it is learned that the bringing this death to light may scandalise a prominent chemist. Even if there is a language barrier or you do not really care for police procedurals, the appreciation for this suspenseful, funky opening sequence by Klaus Doldinger still in use today by is universal.

Friday, 30 October 2020

nutshell studies revisited

Our thanks to Open Culture for giving us the opportunity to return to the murderous miniature dioramas of Frances Glessner Lee, which with the help of a generous endowment for Harvard University helped to establish and transform the art and science of forensic analysis and post mortem medicine. Building on her infatuation with detective novels, Lee shows that not all crime scenes betray an open-and-shut-case, even at a diminutive one-twelfth the scale. Much more to explore at the links above.

Saturday, 28 December 2019


Via Dave Log v.3 (broken link unfortunately) we’re well acquainted with the Unclaimed Baggage Processing Centre in Enterprise Alabama that sells on lost and never claimed luggage from the airlines and more recently were given a tour of Paris’ but we were heretofore unfamiliar with the logoistics behind reuniting when possible, warehousing then auctioning off lost items from Germany’s railways as told in this visual storyboard from the New York Times.
Nearly a quarter of a million items, from the mundane to the esoteric and inexplicable—steeped in more mystery when one considers how one might lose track of certain treasures much less be unable to follow up on their whereabouts, are found every year in stations, on the platforms and left in the trains. A team of a dozen curators headquartered in Wuppertal try to deaccession their collections through research and detective work and find their owners.
Once all efforts have been exhausted, items go under the hammer, auctions held weekly on Platform 1. Though it would be a bit of a railway journey in itself but I’m going to resolve to check the city and the Bahnhof for the clearance event out one Thursday afternoon soon.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

zoinks, jinkies and denouement

The Hanna-Barbera cartoon franchise Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? was conceived in response to parental concerns that the particular Saturday morning line-up, which consisted of Space Ghost, the Herculoids and Tom and Jerry, was too violent. Producers were initially infatuated with the idea of doing a spin-off of the Archie syndicate that featured a teen band who happened to slip off fight crime and solve mysteries in between gigs. The whole concept still needed re-working because these bandmates (with a cowardly mascot) were in pursuit of actual ghouls—rather than some villainous human disguised that those meddling kids would unmask at the end of each episode—and came across as rather too scary. The second, familiar version had its cast of characters drawn directly from the old-teenagers portrayed on the series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis—Norville “Shaggy” Rogers voiced by DJ Casey Kasem and based on the template of beatnik Maynard G Krebs (Bob Denver, later of Gilligan’s Island fame) and Velma Dinkley is lifted from the tomboyish Zelda Gilroy (portrayed by Shelia James Kuehl presently a member of the California State Senate) as a couple examples.
It’s strange to think how all supernatural and superstitious elements were debunked by the show’s finishing scene—excepting the canine sidekick who was retained from the original proposal, of course, and one that could talk (I don’t recall a musical inclination, the Archies’ dog played the bongos)—and I suppose that expectation, moral placated fretful parents. The title character was named reportedly after the scatting verse at the end of Strangers in the Night rather than Detective Chief Inspector Walter Dew, who investigated the Jack the Ripper murders and some other gruesome crimes in turn of the century London, plus cases cat-burglary and forgery. It would not have even occurred to me to connect these two sleuths and wonder, had not I learned that the Inspector, in pursuit of a fugitive, had once travelled under the name Mister Dewhurst. It made me think of some of the reoccurring distant relations (this series was keen on extended families, too, it seemed and everyone had their pedigree) like those who lived on Doo Manor, or cousin Scooby-Dee, Dixie-Doo or Sandy Duncan.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

cat-burglar or level-boss

Though often subtly alluded to and perhaps the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, nineteenth century gentleman burglar turned international criminal syndicate mastermind, Adam Worth, is virtually unknown. Celebrated in his day—albeit no one knew his true identity as he hob-knobbed with Europe’s elite and discreetly ran a network of underlings who committed the actual robberies, and always without violence—the cardinal code of his organisation being never to use firearms, Worth managed to elude capture by Scotland Yard and other national police forces, as well as the sleuths of Pinkerton’s Detective Agency.  Some one ought to make a movie about this original gangster.
Worth operated at a time when associates referred to “baby-face,” gums, sister, lumpy—or by some other physical attribute in case of any eavesdroppers, and though while based in Paris, Worth was faced with none of those stakes that fostered a criminal underworld in America with Prohibition, Worth did open and run the first Bar Americain in the city, which held on its upper-storey an illicit gambling hall that could be transformed in an instant into a sedate salon peopled by figures lounging and reading newspapers through some ingenious pneumatic works that hid the gaming tables when trouble approached. There was also a sense of respect above this honour among thieves displayed by Worth’s own arch-nemesis in the personage of Allen Pinkerton, who had spearheaded the hunt for Worth for decades in the US (where he regularly chanced to visit his parents, who knew nothing about his exploits), London, Paris, Greece and Constantinople, who was relentless like Inspector Javert’s relentless chase for fugitive Jean Valjean but ultimately held the outlaw in high esteem.