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Thursday, 10 May 2007

The Millerson Case (1947) George Archainbaud

After a number of years far too busy solving bizarre murder cases for our edification, Dr Robert Ordway, the Crime Doctor, is vacationing in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginny. As you could expect for 1947, the locals are so stereotypical you'd almost expect Laurel & Hardy to stroll on past singing about things. These country folk are as hick as you could possibly imagine, like a Looney Tunes version of The Beverly Hillbillies but a level beyond.

Ordway turns up to do some hunting and fishing just as people start going down with summer complaint, or such is what the local hick doctor calls it, and it's soon announced by the state health board that there's a typhoid epidemic. Ordway gets roped into helping out with the vaccinations and post mortems and such, and soon discovers that while two of the first three deaths were due to typhoid, the third wasn't and it's a pretty clear cut case of murder by poisoning. The victim is the local barber, Ward Beachey, who is precisely what Gregory Peck would be if he couldn't act, and it soon turns out that there are suspects galore.

The most obvious is the local doctor, Sam Millerson, who has held a solid grudge against Beachey for having the audacity to go get some doctorin' at the local hi-falutin' clinic, but then it becomes apparent that Beachey was a rampant womaniser and half the neighbourhood had a good reason to knock him off. The detective work has its points but it's hardly the best in the series. The setting is what brings it really down though.

The script contains almost every possible backwoods buzzword you could think of, from 'crick' to 'pizened' to 'sassifrass'. There's even a catfight and a hoedown and a retarded kid. The only thing left out here someone getting loved up and turned into a horny toad, but then this was half a century before O Brother Where Art Thou? It's well and truly embarrassing and to be brutally honest, it probably was in 1947 too. Even Swing Your Lady was more believable and certainly more fun because that was Humphrey Bogart held down by a girl until he said 'hootie owl' and they didn't have to speed up the film.

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