Like multi-author short story collections, I often find anthology films pretty hit-or-miss. There are usually a few great segments — and more that range from weak to alright.
I had higher hopes for Three Cases of Murder for a few reasons. First, it’s a genre in which I tend to at least somewhat-enjoy most of what I watch: the murder mystery. Add on a segment led by an Orson Welles performance and another directed by a woman (Wendy Toye), and I was convinced to give it a watch.
As the title suggests, Three Cases of Murder tells three murderous tales from stories by W. Somerset Maugham, Brett Halliday, and Roderick Wilkinson:
- “The Picture,” directed by Wendy Toye — in which a morbid museum houses strange, deadly worlds inside of its paintings
- “You Killed Elizabeth,” directed by David Eady — in which a woman is murdered, and the two men who loved her (who also happen to be best friends) both become suspects
- “Lord Mountdrago,” directed by George More O’Ferrall (and an uncredited Orson Welles) — in which Orson Welles stars as a British foreign secretary who makes enemies with the wrong man and becomes cursed
The screenplay was written by Ian Dalrymple, Donald Wilson, and Sidney Carroll. Alan Badel links the stories, appearing in all three of the film’s segments.
Toye’s segment is far and wide the film’s best. The premise that there are people secretly living in every painting is excellent, and Toye brilliantly brings to life that “eternity of coldness.” It’s spooky, ominous, and entirely brilliant.
After finishing the film, I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of Toye before… but the answer to that riddle soon became clear after researching her. Toye’s directorial credits include a smattering of television programs and vignettes, as well as just four full-length films. I’ve seen none of her full-length features, but certainly, I hope to seek them out now.
“You Killed Elizabeth” takes its time with background and build-up before getting to its murder, making it a bit less engaging than “The Picture” and zapping a bit of the film’s momentum. Once the real drama kicks in, though, the tension between the two suspects is fantastic.
Orson Welles kills it (as expected) in “Lord Mountdrago.” His character is described by another as “brilliant, but insufferable.” His segment is far sillier than the others (see: that “lost trousers” moment and the singing scene), but delightfully so. It’s plenty of fun to watch.
Throughout Three Cases of Murder, I enjoyed the supernatural bent to the stories. It made for highly enjoyable, seasonally-appropriate viewing when I watched the film back in October. And it’s one of the better anthology films I’ve seen, even though “The Picture” was my clear favorite of its segments!
I figured these would be three crime stories, especially with a Brett Halliday story the basis for one of the segments, and of course ‘Murder’ in the title of the movie, so it surprised me to hear they had a supernatural angle to them. Did Halliday supply the basis for the ‘You Killed Elizabeth’ segment? That sounds more like his type of genre.
Yep, that was his segment! And that was the least supernatural of the bunch — more of a standard murder mystery.
I figured as much! Halliday wrote a bunch of Michael Shayne novels; Lloyd Nolan and Hugh Beaumont played the character in movies. I’ve seen the Lloyd ones…fluffy, but decent.
Oh cool, I have actually seen one of those (Dressed to Kill) and really enjoyed it! I should track down the others. Do you know if they’re available on home video at all? Or did you watch them online?
I had a set that I picked up SUPER cheap at Target years ago…four movies other than Dressed to Kill. I got rid of it in a purge, otherwise I’d send it to you! Wait, I just checked…’Michael Shayne Mysteries’, only $7.70 at Amazon!
I did watch all four, and I seem to remember three of the four being kinda silly, cheesy fun, while a fourth actually had some serious storytelling going on. Of course, I can’t recall which one was the less goofy one, but if you watch all four, I’m sure you’ll notice which it is.
Silly fun is fine by me, and $7.70 is a great deal for four movies! I’ll have to add that to my next Amazon order.
I don’t remember if there are any extras, but it’s still a nice little set for the price. Enjoy, and I’ll await your reviews! (And I remembered I’d once written capsule reviews for these four films…and ‘Blue, White, and Perfect’ was the more serious one, and the one I liked best!)