Fallen Angels

(1993-95, Showtime)

FALLEN ANGELS was a crime television anthology that aired on the American network, Showtime, in the 1990’s. Not all the episodes featured private eyes, or even detectives, per se, but who cares?

It paired some great hard-boiled and noir short stories by some of the genre’s masters (you know, hacks like Raymond Chandler, William Campbell Gault, Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson) with some pretty interesting choices for directors, including Peter Bogdanovich, Tom Cruise, Phil Joanou, Jim McBride, Steven Soderbergh and Tom Hanks, and some pretty spiffy casting, such as Gary Oldman, Laura Dern, Danny Glover, Bonnie Bedelia and James Woods. And the writers assigned to script the adaptations weren’t too shabby either: they included Howard Rodman, Scott Frank and Donald Westlake.

It was a real treat; a handsomely-mounted production, full of style, with sharp period detail, and some truly fine acting, which garnered an Emmy nomination apiece for Bonnie Bedelia and Danny Glover (his was for playing a black Philip Marlowe, no less!). There was a jazzy, black-and-white intro featuring a sultry sax warbling around in the background, while some husky-voiced sexpot host (Fay Friendly? Sheesh!) with the proverbial legs up to here welcomed you to the show, but all that could be forgiven once the actual show began.

As far as I can figure, Showtime had very high hopes for the first season. It was heavily promoted, and there was also a nice companion book released, pairing the original short stories with the matching scripts, and a soundtrack album was even released. The shows from the first season were even eventually made available on two video cassettes (three episodes each).

Alas, the enthusiasm Showtime had for the project waned when the expected ratings never materialized. Further episodes were produced, including adaptations of “Red Wind” by Chandler and “Flypaper” by Hammett, as well as stories by David Goodis, Cornell Woolrich and Mickey Spillane, and, over the next few years, they eventually aired. Unfortunately, there were no accompanying videos, books or soundtrack albums, at least in North America.

But the shows have since popped up in various places, including on British television in the winter of 1999, where they ran under the title Perfect Crimes, and were well enough received that some episodes were shown at the National Film Theatre in London, where they played it on the big screen at “the annual crime thing here,” according to one British fan, and it was even released on DVD there in 2003. If there’s anyone out there with more information on this show, particularly the second season, please feel free to contact me. Please.

TELEVISION

  • FALLEN ANGELS
    (1993-95, Showtime)
    Half-hour drama anthology
    A Mirage Enterprises/Propaganda Films/Showtime Networks Inc. Production
    Series creator: William Horberg
    Directors:  Peter Bogdanovich, Tom Cruise, Alfonso Cuarón, Tom Hanks, Agnieszka Holland, Phil Joanou, Jonathan Kaplan, Michael Lehmann, Jim McBride, Steven Soderbergh
    Producers: William Horberg, Lindsay Doran, Steve Golin
    Co-producer: David Wisnievitz
    Executive Producer: Sydney Pollack
    Theme composed by Elmer Bernstein
    Original music by Peter Bernstein
    Cinematography by Robert Brinkmann, Emmanuel Lubezki, Declan Quinn, Peter Suschitzky
    Starring Lynette Walden as FAY FRIENDLY

    • SEASON ONE
      6 episodes
    • DEAD END FOR DELIA
      Based on the short story by William Campbell Gault
      Teleplay by Scott Frank
      Directed by Phil Joanou
      Starring Gary Oldman, Meg Tilly, Gabrielle Anwar, Paul Guilfoyle, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Dan Hedaya, Patrick Masset
    • I’LL BE WAITING
      Based on the short story by Raymond Chandler
      Teleplay by C. Gaby Mitchell
      Directed by Tom Hanks
      Starring Bruno Kirby as TONY RESNICK
      Also starring Dan Hedaya, Marg Helgenberger, Jon Polito, Dick Miller, Peter Scolari, Tom Hanks, Manny Perry
    • MURDER OBLIQUELY
      Based on the short story by Cornell Woolrich
      Teleplay by Amanda Silver
      Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
      Starring Laura Dern, Alan Rickman, Diane Lane, Robin Bartlett, John A. Zee, Michael Vartan, Patrick Masset
    • THE QUIET ROOM
      Based on the short story by Jonathan Craig
      Teleplay by Howard Rodman
      Directed by Steven Soderbergh
      Starring Joe Mantegna, Bonnie Bedelia, Vinessa Shaw, Patrick Breen, J.E. Freeman, Peter Gallagher, Wayne Grace, Kathy Kinney, Genia Michaela, Hank Stone, Norman Large
      Bedelia was nominated for a 1994 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Emmy for her portrayal of Sally Creighton in this episode.
    • THE FRIGHTENING FRAMMIS
      Based on the short story by Jim Thompson
      Teleplay by Jon Robin Baitz and Howard A. Rodman
      Directed by Tom Cruise
      Starring Peter Gallagher, Isabella Rossellini, Nancy Travis, John Reilly, Joe Viterelli, Martin Lonsdale, Bill Erwin, Jean Speegle-Howard, Gene Price
    • SINCE I DON’T HAVE YOU
      Based on the short story by James Ellroy
      Teleplay by Steven Katz
      Directed by Jonathan Kaplan
      Starring Gary Busey, James Woods, Tim Matheson, Aimee Graham, Ken Lerner, Robert L. Minor, Elaine Hendrix, Cindy Ambuehl, Simone Wright, George Rodriguez, Al Evans, Dino Anello, Gary Grossman, Bruce Meade, Michael Milgrom
    • SEASON TWO
      9 episodes
    • FEARLESS
      (November 1994)
      Based on the short story by Walter Mosley
      Starring James DuMont, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn
    • A DIME A DANCE
      Based on “The Dancing Detective” by Cornell Woolrich
      Teleplay by Allan Scott
      Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
      Starring Jennifer Grey, Eric Stoltz, Richard Portnow
    • LOVE AND BLOOD
      (October 8, 1995)
      Based on the short story “Return” by Evan Hunter
      Directed by Kiefer Sutherland
      Starring Mädchen Amick, Kiefer Sutherland, Edward Bunker
    • TOMORROW I DIE
      (November 5, 1995)
      Based on the short story by Mickey Spillane
      Directed by John Dahl
      Starring Bill Pullman, Heather Graham
    • THE BLACK BARGAIN
      (November 19, 1995)
      Based on the short story by Cornell Wollrich
      Written by Don Macpherson
      Directed by Keith Gordon
      Starring Miguel Ferrer, Lucinda Jenney, Grace Zabriskie
    • RED WIND
      (1995)
      Based on the short story by Raymond Chandler
      Directed by Agnieszka Holland
      Starring Danny Glover as PHILIP MARLOWE
      Also starring Valeria Golino
      Glover was nominated for a 1996 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Emmy for his portrayal of Marlowe in this episode.
    • FLY PAPER
      Based on the short story by Dashiell Hammett
      Directed by Tim Hunter (?)
      Screenplay by Donald Westlake
      Starring Christopher Lloyd as THE CONTINENTAL OP
      and Darren McGavin as The Old Man
      “Very well done (though the action, I think, was shifted from SF to LA). Screenplay by Donald Westlake, and the Op was played by Jim from Taxi!! The twist (not the wandering daughter, but the moll) was quite well played too, but maybe because Hammett gave her some good lines.”
      — Eddie Dugan, Rara Avis
      “Don Westlake wrote the script, which was fine. But they cast Christopher Lloyd as The Op and Darren McGavin as the old man when, obviously, they should have ignored their ages and reversed the roles.
      –Dick Lochte
    • THE PROFESSIONAL MAN
      Based on a short story by David Goodis
      Teleplay by Howard A. Rodman
      Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
      Starring Brendan Fraser as JOHNNY LAMB
      Also starring Bruce Ramsay, Peter Coyote, Bernard Hoche, Alpheus Merchant, Joe Chrest, Wayne Pere, Raoul Elambe, David Ward, John Wese
      Fraser plays a bellboy/hitman here.
    • GOOD HOUSEKEEPING
      (1995)
      Based on short story “No Escape” by Bruno Fischer
      Teleplay by David Siegel and Scott McGehee
      Directed by Michael Lehmann
      Starring Dana Delany, William Petersen, Marcia Gay Harden, Benicio del Toro, Adam Baldwin

BOOKS

  • Fallen Angels (1993)Buy this book
    Intriguing tie-in collection of the first six episodes, featuring both the original short stories and the screenplays of their television adaptations. Preface by James Ellroy.

VIDEOS/DVDS

I get an awful lot of requests for videos and DVDs of this series, particularly the second season, but unless you live in the U.K., you’re going to need some patience. The first season was released on two VHS cassettes way back in thenineties, and more recently, some episodes from the second season have popped up on a three-DVD set under the title “Perfect Crimes,” the name by which the second season ran in the UK. Unfortunately, Region Two DVDs won’t run on most North American players.

  • Fallen Angels, Vol. 1 | Buy this video
    (1993, Polygram Video)
    Three episodes from the first season: “Since I Don’t Have You,” “The Frightening Frammis,” and “Murder Obliquely.”
  • Fallen Angels, Vol. 2 | Buy this video
    (1993, Polygram Video)
    Three more episodes from the first season: “I’ll Be Waiting,” Dead End For Delia” and “The Quiet Room.”
  • Perfect Crimes, Vols 1-3
    (2003, Prism Leisure)
    Available separately or as a three DVD set. Each disc carries three full-screen episodes, and the title sequences remains intact except for a tacky “Perfect Crimes” title card replacing the “Fallen Angels” caption. The only extra is a series trailer. Volume One includes “Red Wind,” “Fly Paper” and “Professional Man;” Volume Two features “Tomorrow I Die,” “Love And Blood” and “Fearless” and Volume Three completes the series with “‘A Dime A Dance, “Good Housekeeping” and “The Black Bargain.”
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Hands across the water to Anne Petersen in Denmark, Chris Mussett, Steve Welburn and Ann Gardner for their help on this one.

Talk to me...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s