As part of my movie watching for TGGeeks I’ve decided to take a look at movies for the LGBTQ community that have probably flown under most people’s radar, and this time I’m going to examine the third of the Donald Strachey gay detective movies, On The Other Hand, Death.
Donald Strachey is a private investigator, with something of a past that he likes to keep hidden. One thing that he doesn’t hide is that he’s openly gay, and living in Albany NY allows him the right to marry his longtime partner, Timmy Callahan, who is a legislative aide to New York State Senator Glassman. Their marriage is common knowledge in the LGBTQ community, as is the fact that Donald is the first gay P.I. compliments of an article that was done on him in The Advocate. Donald is also just as much of a wannabe Colombo as Timmy is a poster boy for Brooks Brothers.
A lesbian couple (Dorothy, played by Margot Kidder and Edith played by Gabrielle Rose) is at the end of some hateful vandalism. It’s the middle of the night when someone breaks into their home, destroys their belongings, and then paints on their wall “DYKES GET OUT!”
Meanwhile, Donald (played by Chad Allen), has been arrested because he was tailing a cop under the belief that her husband (she’s not married) hired him to follow her. Confusing so far? Well as with all mysteries these threads will come together.
Then there is a school board meeting that Timmy (Sebastian Spence) has lassoed Donald into attending because Timmy’s boyfriend from college, Andrew McWhirter (Damon Runyan) will be speaking there. The topic? The fact that there is a lesbian (the aforementioned Dorothy) works there as a guidance counselor, and there are parents who find her presence offensive because they believe she is promoting homosexuality. However further investigation seems to indicate that the real truth has to do with the property that Dorothy and Edith live on, and that leads back to the cop who arrested him and the case she’s working on.
Can Donald find out the true meaning behind the threats against Dorothy and Edith? What is so special about their property? And does Andrew have anything to do with this?
Once again director Ron Oliver has crafted the most delightful detective story done in the old film noir style. Everything about Donald here screams of Humphrey Bogart on his quest for the Maltese Falcon. As with the previous stories, there is a message here, but this one is somewhat buried, and that deals with questioning youth and the emotional turmoil they may be in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t receive the attention that it deserves. Instead, it merely serves as a tertiary plot device involving Dorothy and the care that she has for the students as their guidance counselor. Everything else that happens here appears under the shroud of anti-gay bigotry, which at times does come off as heavy-handed, especially with one father and his refusal to see the issues his son is going through. While this is a good issue, it feels cheap here in the way it’s handled, making for the suspension of disbelief quite difficult. That’s not to say this isn’t an enjoyable movie. It still has much of the charming fun that made the first two movies so very successful, and the cast for this movie is as always, outstanding.
Chad Allen has so perfected the persona of the 1930s gumshoe detective in a more urban setting. He has become quite comfortable in the role of Strachey. The only downside is there aren’t any new character developments for him to grow from. His big military secret has now been shared so there isn’t much else that can be done in terms of development. The same can be said about Sebastian Spence in his role of Timmy. Much of his growth has already occurred, and sadly he is pretty much reduced to being nothing more than a side character. The chemistry between Spence and Allen is as awesome as always, but due to the nature of this story, there isn’t much else for either Allen or Spence to draw upon for the sake of their characters.
What does make for fun casting is the addition of both Margot Kidder and Gabrielle Rose. As the older couple, they both bring an almost eccentric sense of fun to their roles, even when they bicker about what their next decision should be. Kidder has certainly come a long way since her days as Lois Lane, but it is still quite a treat to see her on the screen.
The real star of this movie is the movie itself. Through the use of Peter Allen’s music, along with some fabulous camerawork and lighting, this movie goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to creating an atmosphere. Even the use of shadow is played to a delightful subtle effect that subconsciously takes you back in time. It’s no wonder that director Oliver has such love for this specific genre of mystery. It shows everywhere from the slow pans in a scene to moments where the shadow of someone will suddenly appear and that is all you see as the person causing the shadow engages in a conversation with Donald.
As Donald Strachey mysteries go, this one has me somewhat split. I miss some of the strong character issues that can bring out some equally powerful acting. However where it does fall short in terms of acting performances it more than makes up in the fun the audience has in trying to unravel this mystery, and as with all others of this genre being able to figure it out is quite the challenge. Nevertheless, On The Other Hand, Death is a fun movie to watch as well as a strong chapter in this series of Donald Strachey movies.
All of the Donald Strachey movies can be found on HereTV.