Third Man Out

Third Man Out (DVD Cover)

Cast: Donald Strachey (Chad Allen), Timmy Callahan (Sebastian Spence), John Rutka (Jack Wetherall), Ann Rutka (Sean Young), Eddie (Woody Jeffreys), Bishop McFee (John Moore), Father Morgan (Alf Humphreys)

Director: Ron Oliver

Original air date(s): 07/07/2005
DVD Date: 08/08/2006

Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 98 minutes

Note(s): Screenplay adapted from the novel Third Man Out by Richard Stevenson.

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Third Man Out

Review: I recently saw an ad for the fourth Donald Strachey mystery, didn't realize there was a first, second, and third, so went out to find the first in the series, Third Man Out. Third Man Out is based on the novel of the same name by Richard Stevenson and features gay private investigator Donald Strachey. The series is set in Albany (NY).

John Rutka is reviled for self-righteously "outing" Albany's closeted gays, especially those in positions of power or influence. When his life is threatened, he turns to Strachey to protect him. He expects Strachey to do so as he has something on him as well, something Strachey would rather not be made public. After Rutka is abducted and murdered, his body burned in a warehouse, Strachey feels obligated on following through to find his killer. The investigation becomes personal when Strachey's life partner is kidnapped, furthering his resolve to see justice done.

At first Chad Allen seems like an odd choice to play Donald Strachey. Quite frankly, he just doesn't look the part. But as the movie progresses, he works himself into the character, someone who has both a conflicted past and a conflicted present. He was once in the army, maybe military intelligence. There seems to be an underlying distrust of authority here. His current relationship with the Albany police is one of distance though respect. By the end of the movie, Chad Allen is Donald Strachey. That's quite an accomplishment and a credit to Allen's acting ability.

The other notable character is Jack Wetherall as John Rutka. What a measured, yet powerful performance. He has a screen presence here that demands the viewer's attention. He's both good and evil at the same time. You're not quite sure whether you're on his side or not, but you absolutely know he believes that what he's doing is absolutely right.

Anyone who has read a lot of mysteries or watched a lot of movie whodunits will no doubt see exactly where the plot is heading. There's not a lot of misdirection here. In some respects, that's a bit of a disappointment. Various suspects are presented for audience approval, some more believable than others, but the ending is never in doubt. Still, given how predictable the story is, it's well told and the solid performances by the actors definitely make the movie far better than it otherwise might have been.

With one possible exception. Sebastian Spence plays Strachey's partner Timmy Callahan. Callahan is an aide to a state senator, or maybe the state's senator, it's not clear which, and is portrayed as a somewhat stereotypical stuffed shirt. Prim and proper in contrast to Strachey's rough and ready. An odd couple to be sure, the movie doesn't spend much time on their relationship. He doesn't come off as all that likeable, but since there are three sequels, possibly Callahan comes out of his shell in later episodes.

Maybe it was just the DVD I watched, but there were some obvious production problems with the movie. The film itself has a yellow gray wash to it, no doubt intended to convey some sort of noir-ish quality. That, in and of itself, is all right. But in many scenes the colors were so unsaturated that they appeared almost black-and-white. And the audio at times was terrible (though the atmospheric background music is generally first rate and perfectly appropriate). I realize this was a low-budget production, but still, there should have been some care taken to make the movie of at least consistent visual and audio quality.

Though clearly targeted towards gay audiences (what with a gay private eye and a gay theme), fans of mysteries in general should enjoy Strachey's investigation into the murder of a local activist. And I have no doubt I'll be ordering the next in the series to watch soon.


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