Pelican’s top 5 detective films

A subjective list of the greatest the genre has to offer

Our new show, The Cat Man Curse, is a surreal mystery comedy. When TV actor Charles Heron (famous for playing hot-shot lawyer Harvey Hardtruth), is struck by an old Hollywood Curse, he needs legal advice from real-life solicitor, Mark Swift. Thrown into a kaleidoscopic 1970’s noir investigation, the unlikely pair must come together to solve a bizarre mystery… Here are 5 detective stories that we love and that influenced us in writing The Cat Man Curse. Click on the hyperlinks for some snippets.  

1. Inherent Vice

A Californian beach town. The end of the 60’s. A missing woman. Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), Private Investigator and hippie-stoner, investigates the interconnected activities of the clandestine organization, The Golden Fang. The more he investigates, the less it makes sense, and as things become more sprawling and sinister, Doc is thrown into a world of real estate magnates, maritime lawyers, drug syndicates, and corrupt dentists. Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel is a colourful, surreal, mystery romp through the criminal underworld of LA, set against the backdrop of social change; the 60’s are over… What next?  

2. Magnum PI

The cheesy side of the detective genre. Broadcast throughout the 1980’s, Magnum PI is TV’s answer to the Rubik’s Cube. Thomas Magnum is a louche sleuth operating in Hawaii, who drives a Ferrari, wears Aloha shirts and sports a thick moustache. Expect mustachioed Tom Selleck (also known as Monica’s boyfriend from Friends) driving fast cars, shooting guns, and slapping asses. Amidst some hammy one-liners and ropey storylines, the thing that really makes this show special is the indelibly funky theme tune and over-the-top title sequence.

3. Scooby Doo

Scooby is our all time favourite detective, and this cartoon has everything you could ask for – psychedelic colours, wacked out plots and great gags. Everyone knows the deal; a monster is ravaging a theme park, along come Mystery Inc.—a gang of teenage detectives and their talking dog—who specialise in solving mysteries of the spooky kind. Mummies, Vampires, Ghosts and Sea monsters, inevitably turn out to be janitors, hoteliers and theme park proprietors… Usually the villain is the first doxycycline hyclate online person they meet, and/or the only other character in the episode, but it’s no less satisfying when the mask finally comes off. What Scooby Doo shows is that outlandish plots, wobbly motives and questionable detective work are completely justified when met with great characters, crazy costumes and ridiculous chase scenes.

4. The Long Goodbye

Robert Altman’s 1973 neo-noir thriller is an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel of the same name. Elliot Gould (also known as Monica’s Dad in Friends) stars as Phillip Marlowe, the definitive wise-cracking, hard-drinking private eye. Raymond Chandler is the father of the hard-boiled detective genre, and by bringing Chandler’s work into the 70’s, Altman takes a satirical look at how Hollywood has changed since the 1940’s. Marlowe, the classic PI, seems increasingly incongruous in contemporary California, where health conscious hippies don’t appreciate a chain-smoking, outdated relic of a man. Mixing satire with another case of missing person, the film is an important influence on Inherent Vice. The Long Goodbye is an exciting mix of intrigue, comedy and social commentary.

5. The Big Lebowski

A neo-noir detective story that doesn’t feature a detective… Instead we’re met with The Dude (Jeff Bridges), another faded hippie who finds himself caught up in the middle of things – bowling tournaments, porn stars, and opportunistic nihilists – in downtown Los Angeles. Surreal dream sequences weave through this screwball comedy, playfully subverting the traditional hard-boiled detective genre; loosely an adaptation of Chandler’s The Big Sleep, the film owes just as much to Cheech and Chong. The whiskey drinking, womanizing, hard nosed detective of Phillip Marlowe is replaced here by a White Russian drinking, incapable stoner who stumbles through LA without a clue. If Marlowe was outdated in the 1970’s, by the 90’s he’s nowhere to be seen.

So that’s our pick of detective stories. We hope you enjoy watching them. And if you like them, you might enjoy The Cat Man Curse, a whirlwind mix of these influences. (Perhaps more on the Scooby side of things…)


The Cat Man Curse

Bedlam Theatre

2nd-28th August (not 9th, 16th, 23rd)



Pelican Comedy 1 Article
Pelican are an exciting young comedy company formed by Gaulier-trained ex-Footlights Sam, Jordan and Guy. We blend intelligent sketch-based comedy with clowning and physical theatre to create shows with a real sense of liveness.

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