Top 5 Screen Detectives
With the release of The Seven Percent Solution on DVD we were inspired to honour five of our favourite super sleuths. Each generation has its hero screen detective, and each loves them even more for their quirks, flaws and complications. MovieMail's Top 5 detective films feature some of the screen's most iconic gumshoes, from the irascible genius of Sherlock Holmes to the anti-heroism of Dirty Harry.
1. Insp. Harry Callahan (aka) Dirty Harry
Clint Eastwood cemented his uniqueness among action heroes with the taciturn, brutal and not-altogether-endearing Inspector Harry Callaghan, bane of villains and pen-pushing politicians alike. Stretching the concept of heroism, Eastwood's iconic detective was criticised at the time for meting out his own brand of justice, but the public lapped it up, and four sequels duly followed.
2. Detective Philip Marlowe
The Big Sleep. Bogart. Bacall. Raymond Chandler. Howard Hawks. What more do you need? This is the noir template for the plethora of sharp-talking, straight-shooting 'tecs with weaknesses for hard-boiled dames that later tried but usually failed to step into Bogie's shoes. Only Bogart could truly evoke the integrity at the heart of Philip Marlowe's ravaged soul, and only Raymond Chandler could supply lines like these.
3. Albert Finney's Poirot
As Agatha Christie's exacting Belgian detective Hercule Poirot has since been tackled very admirably on screen by Peter Ustinov and David Suchet, its easy to forget just how magnificent Albert Finney's portrayal was. But in Murder on the Orient Express, he still overshadows those later efforts, and this remains one of the most satisfying of all screen adaptations of the prolific Christie's work.
4. Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes
Seventy years on, Basil Rathbone remains the screen's definitive Sherlock Holmes, even in the face of competition from the formidable likes of Jeremy Brett, Peter Cushing and Robert Stephens. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is perhaps the best of his fourteen Holmes pictures, retaining as it does its Victorian setting (later entries were 'modernised'), decent production values and an excellent nemesis in George Zucco's Professor Moriarty.
He may be the aesthetic antithesis to the pristine Poirot, but Peter Falk's shambolic LA lieutenant could give the Belgian a run for his money in the detection stakes any time. Columbo's MO is deceptively chaotic, but if you're the bad guy, he knows as soon as he lays his good eye on you. Falk played the detective in two long series of TV movies (1971-78 and 1989-2003). The seventies series is the best, and all the episodes are available on DVD.