DVD Patrol: Our favorite thrillers

It’s been a long time coming, but the Toddster always delivers sooner or later. The team is back with a new member. Hello, Ashley! This has been in the works for awhile and some time ago Kevin came up with a great idea for a team-up that involved some of our greatest thrillers. I had some fun seeing what the team came up with and there are some interesting choices. All are available on DVD now and see if you agree with what we’ve got this time around.

“The Maltese Falcon” (1931)

Considered by many critics to be the greatest film of all time, “The Maltese Falcon” ranks as my number one favorite murder mystery, as this classic kicks off with a slow swing which builds into a beguiling and suspenseful thriller.

San Francisco Private Investigator Sam Spade , played by classic anti-hero actor Humphrey Bogart. and his estranged partner Miles Archer are approached by Ruth Wonderly, a woman interested in employing them to locate her missing sister. Wonderly’s only lead is a man named Thursby.whom she is scheduled to meet later that night. The hunt for the missing sister is quickly overshadowed when Thursby and Archer are shot dead that same night, and Spade is picked up for the crime, who as it turns out,has had an affair with Archer’s wife. The plot goes through some more twists and quickly turns when Wonderly reveals her true name to be Brigid O’Shaugnessy, and admits Thursby was actually her partner. Spade is subsequently approached by two men on separate occasions. Both were interested in hiring Spade for exorbitant fees to locate a figure known as the Maltese Falcon. The fabled falcon is said to be a jeweled encrusted statue made out of pure gold. By chance the falcon, which has been coated in a thick black material to hide its’ value, falls into the hands of Spade. Using the falcon as leverage, Spade is able to glean the truth behind Thursby’s and Archer’s murders from the greedy antagonists who, in turn, eagerly hand over one of their number to act as a scapegoat for the killings. The final, ironic twist of the film- the coveted falcon (which men have been killed for)- turns out to be a fake. “The Maltese Falcon” is an iconic film which has been held up by many directors as an inspiration for their work, and has had a profound impact on the industry. – Kevin Doonan



“Frailty” (2001)

I’ve never been one able to choose a favorite. I can’t pick an ice cream flavor, favorite color, or favorite restaurant. There are just things that I like, don’t like, or I’m indifferent to. Movies are no exception. I always blame it on being a Libra. I’m too indecisive for my own good. When it comes to murder mysteries or suspense movies, I’m not too well versed. However. I’ve decided to choose ‘Frailty” made in 2001. This is not necessarily my favorite, but it genuinely creeps me out. A lot. The story takes place in Texas and is centered around the FBI’s investigation into a string of unsolved murders. The FBI refers to the perpetrator as the “God’s Hand Killer,” even as Matthew McConaughey’s character shows up at the detective’s office and claims to know who committed the murders. The rest of the film involves flashbacks between his childhood and present day. Bill Paxton, who also directs the film, plays the Father of two boys, Fenton and Adam. Paxton’s character- who is only referred to as Dad- claims to have to been visited by God. God tells him that it’s the duty of him and his children to destroy “demons’ that walk the Earth in human form. It’s ridiculously disturbing. Paxton’s character doesn’t consider this killing, as he is doing the work that God has asked him to do. He forces his sons to help. Like I said, pretty creepy.

There are a couple of plot twists in there that mix things up quite a bit. While the acting isn’t always the greatest- and the script is awkward at times- the extra vibe I get while watching this movie causes it to win my vote. – Ashley Biviano

“Seven” (1995)

Whenever a good suspense thriller or who-done-it murder mystery is discussed, it seems like only a matter of time before the name of veteran actor Morgan Freeman comes up. Same holds true here. My favorite murder mystery, hands down, is the 1995 Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, and Kevin Spacey film “Seven.”

While “Dragnet” showed moviegoers the funny side of pairing a seasoned detective with a headstrong newcomer, “Seven” takes a more sinister approach. Detectives David Mills (Pitt) and William Somerset (Freeman) investigate a series of murders in a rainy and decaying metropolitan area, each murder is inspired by one of the seven deadly sins: sloth, greed, gluttony, pride, and lust. Not forgotten, the remaining two sins- envy and wrath- also come into play in a surprise twist ending that I’m not going to spoil (because what’s a murder mystery without a little enigma?). Positive reviews by movie critics also played a huge role in its’ success and laid the groundwork for murder thrillers through the late 90s and into the 2000s. However, I think what makes the movie more captivating is its’ portrayal of the inherent evil of the individual. “Seven” addresses human characteristics most are guilty of but few will ever admit to. That in mind, the film’s bleak, pretentious overtone (complete with graphic images and strong language) is a reflection of human intent.... perfect to crush the dreams of an optimist like myself.

There’s an endless selection of murder mysteries out there, but to have one that is based on the worst of human behavior... well, that does make more applicable, doesn’t it? – Shawn Magrath

“Hero and the Terror” (1988)

When you see as many movies as I do, it’s hard picking a favorite. A couple of weeks ago during one of my days off, I came upon a Chuck Norris film I hadn’t seen in a few years. This was one of those character movies that you wouldn’t expect from an action hero like him, yet very entertaining. Meet Danny Obrien (Norris). Obrien was a cop who was tracking a serial killer named Simon Moon (Jack O’Halloran) who had been on a reign of terror through Los Angeles and the LAPD makes it a priority to find him. Following a lead, Danny and his partner track Moon to a pier with some hidden chambers where he could easily hide.

Danny splits off from his partner and finds where Moon had been taking his victims. Moon finds him and Danny does his best to fight him off but Moon is an extremely enormous person. Bloodied and battered, Danny tries to get away from him but manages to take him down, hailed as a hero. Danny doesn’t consider himself a hero and his encounter with Moon still haunts him. Facing his fear is something he has to live with, even being a cop.

A couple of years later, Moon manages to escape from a maximum security mental facility. During the escape, Moon appears to be dead. Danny hears about the escape and is convinced the killer he stopped once before is on the loose again. Can Danny face his fears and stop the killer nicknamed “The Terror”? – Todd Campbell

April has been pretty slow for DVDs but coming next week, the Patrol returns with quite a few new movies and a certain “top gun” might be here too. Who could we be talking about? That would be telling. The Toddster is back next week.

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