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Classic Mystery & Suspense Films on DVD
What characteristics define Mystery and Suspense movies? Visit these two “Film Genres” pages on the American Movie Classics (AMC) web site to find out!
Sherlock Holmes: Dressed to Kill by
Call Number: PR 4620 .D69 D73 2002
Publication Date: Produced 1946; DVD released 2002
Nobody played Sherlock Holmes better than the Shakespearean-trained Basil Rathbone. The heroic Holmes was a departure from his typical sinister-yet-suave villain roles. With Nigel Bruce as sidekick Dr. Watson, they updated the Victorian-era detective story for the 20th century in 14 films. In "Dressed to Kill," Holmes is pitted against a clever femme fatale, and the key to the mystery lies in a series of music boxes. They don't appear to be terribly valuable, so why are people willing to kill for them?
Call Number: PS 3503 .L718 P75 1999
Publication Date: Produced 1960; DVD released 1999
Just as "Jaws" kept swimmers out of the ocean, "Psycho" made bathers shower with both eyes open. Arguably Hitchcock's masterpiece, this film stunned audiences by violently killing off its beautiful star before the first hour had elapsed. Is it a suspenseful thriller, or horror? The psychologically deviant character of Norman Bates, creepy camera angles, shocking plot twists, and nerve-jangling background sounds all lean toward thriller. But watching Janet Leigh's blood (portrayed by chocolate syrup) swirling down the drain adds the element of sheer horror that made this film a classic.
The Manchurian Candidate by
Call Number: PN 1997 .M2564 2004
Publication Date: Produced 1962; DVD released 2004
A few years ago, the premise of this Cold War-era political thriller would have seemed far-fetched: soldiers serving in Korea are captured and brainwashed, and one is trained to kill the U.S. president years later. But in the current atmosphere of Capitol Hill insurrections and suicide bombers, it doesn't seem so crazy. Singer Frank Sinatra plays the assassin's Army buddy, who gradually realizes what's about to happen. Can he figure out who is really behind the plot, and stop it before it's too late?
Call Number: PN 1997 .A1 T696 1999
Publication Date: Produced 1974; DVD released 1999
A dispute about water rights in 1930s-era Los Angeles doesn't sound very mysterious, does it? But Jack Nicholson avoids the pitfalls of playing the hardboiled private eye -- which could easily turn campy -- and draws us into the intrigue of shadowy political dealings, double-crosses, and (of course) murder. Staying true to the genre occupied by the great American sleuths like Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, and Sam Spade, this story proves once again that dames are nothing but trouble.
The Name of the Rose by
Call Number: PQ 4865 .C6 N613 2004
Publication Date: Produced 1986; DVD released 2004
In the midst of the Inquisition era, a monk (played by Sean Connery) is called upon to solve a murder at a monastery. The medieval religious community fears that the devil is at work, but the friar and his young novice (Christian Slater) uncover far more earthly clues to the truth. Based on the novel by Umberto Eco, this mystery shows that ugly human faults like rumor-mongering, suspicion, and false accusations are nothing new -- we've been behaving like this for centuries.
Now Streaming: Films on Demand
No discussion of detective and mystery films would be complete without mentioning Agatha Christie, whose world-famous novels spawned more than 30 movies, and several long-running radio and television series. Her two most beloved detective characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, were played by a range of actors, including Angela Lansbury, Helen Hayes, David Suchet, and Peter Ustinov. For a humorous take on the detective film canon, keep an eye out for Elsa Lanchester and James Coco in the spoof Murder by Death, where they put a silly spin on Marple and Poirot.
The 1945 adaptation of Christie's And Then There Were None won the Golden Leopard prize at the Locarno International Film Festival. The story begins with several strangers, played by Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, and Judith Anderson (among others) being summoned to a remote island. One by one, they begin to die, until only two are left. Will you figure out who the murderer is?
The Moment of Psycho : How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder by
Call Number: PN 1997 .P79 T48 2009
Publication Date: 2009
It was made like a television movie, and completed in less than three months. It killed off its star in 40 minutes. There was no happy ending. And it offered the most violent scene to date in American film, punctuated by shrieking strings that seared the national consciousness. Nothing like "Psycho" had existed before; the movie industry -- even America itself -- would never be the same. In this book, film critic David Thomson situates "Psycho" in Alfred Hitchcock’s career, recreating the mood and time when the seminal film erupted onto film screens worldwide. Thomson shows that "Psycho" was not just a sensation in film; it altered the very nature of our desires. Sex, violence, and horror took on new life. "Psycho," all of a sudden, represented all America wanted from a film and, as Thomson brilliantly demonstrates, still does.