From Gothic Thriller to Art Film

The Burning Court was directed by Julien Duvivier

Another fun website that reviews and analyzes genre films is Braineater, created and maintained by Will Laughlin. In this installment he reviews the French film La Chambre ardente (1962), “a movie that sits somewhere between an art film and a Gothic thriller,” directed by Julien Duvivier, based on a classic novel by the American author John Dickson Carr. 

Here’s an excerpt from Laughlin’s review:

Carr, after a slow start in the late 1920’s, came into his own in the early 1930’s. He was soon recognized as one of the finest mystery writers of the so-called Golden Age. In 1937, he published what many consider his greatest novel, The Burning Court. However, his work — while always professional — was sometimes uneven; and after the Second World War, his career began to falter. A new generation had come to maturity, and they considered Carr and the writers of the Golden Age too old fashioned, too academic… a remnant of the old order that had been destroyed by the war. Nevertheless, Carr continued to write Golden Age-style detective stories well into the late 60’s and early 70’s. Though there have been periodic revivals of his work, and though he has always had supporters in fellow writers like Kingsley Amis and Anthony Boucher, Carr has never recaptured the recognition his admirers consider he deserves. If you think about it, there’s an obvious reason Duvivier chose to turn The Burning Court into La Chambre ardente

John Dickson Carr

Author John Dickson Carr

Julien Duvivier

Director Julien Duvivier







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Theodore Sturgeon and Ellery Queen

If it’s true that Theodore Sturgeon “suffered from writer’s block for many years at a time,” as Eric Weeks and Bill Seabrook tell us on the Theodore Sturgeon Page, then all I can say is, when Sturgeon was on, he was prodigiously ON.

I’ve written elsewhere about a book called I, Libertine, which Sturgeon authored as a prank, in collaboration with Jean Shepherd and Ian Ballantine, under the pseudonym Frederick R. Ewing. That he could knock off a novel on a whim is fairly impressive, but that’s nothing compared to what I learned recently. Theodore Sturgeon ghost-wrote one of the best Ellery Queen novels, The Player On the Other Side (Random House, 1963).

Wikipedia quotes H.R.F. Keating’s The Bedside Companion to Crime, New York (Mysterious Press, 1989):

William DeAndrea, author and … winner of Mystery Writers of America awards, selecting his ten favorite mystery novels for the magazine Armchair Detective, picked The Player on the Other Side as one of them. He said: “This book changed my life … and made a raving mystery fan (and therefore ultimately a mystery writer) out of me. … The book must be ‘one of the most skilful    pastiches in the history of literature. An amazing piece of work, whomever did it’.”

This got my attention. I’m halfway through Player and it really is a good read in the style of the golden-age detective fiction.

Most of the Ellery Queen books were written by two cousins, Daniel Nathan and Manford (Emanuel) Lepofsky. Together, they wrote under the pseudonym “Ellery Queen” and they also named their fictional detective Ellery Queen.