Veronica Mars Attacks

March 18th, 2014 by Max Allan Collins

This weekend Barb and I went to St. Louis to visit our son Nate (who as you may know runs this site) and his terrific wife, Abby. I finished the Spillane western novel THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK (but for a two-day edit, which will begin today), so I could really use the break. Ditto Barb, who recently finished her draft of ANTIQUES SWAP. But the main reason for the trip was seeing the VERONICA MARS movie.

I am a Kickstarter backer of the movie. You’re welcome. But its limited run (pretty much strictly AMC theaters) did not bring the film to our area, so going to see it in St. Louis made a lot of sense, since we hadn’t seen Nate and Abby in a while, and we could do a late celebration of my birthday – Nate even sprung for the tickets. As a harbinger of senility, I forgot to wear one of the two VERONICA MARS t-shirts I received as a backer, a slip that Nate gleefully reminded me of numerous times.

Nate’s presence, despite his sarcastic nature (which I have no idea where he got), was key because – like Barb – he was a VERONICA MARS fan as well. This was an enthusiasm grown from a binge-watch, because I did not discover the show till I’d seen Kristen Bell in REEFER MADNESS and realized she was a special talent. Yes, and blonde and beautiful, but that’s just petty of you to mention. By way of prep for the film, Barb and I binge re-watched the three seasons in three weeks, and Nate and Abby did pretty much the same, though I believe it took them four weeks…a barely adequate performance, if you ask me.

As for the movie itself, as one of the producers (you’re welcome), I am biased. But all four of us loved it. I can’t be sure, but I think it will work well on moviegoers with a bent toward mystery and specially noir P.I. whether they’ve seen the original series or not. It manages to be at once a movie and a great VERONICA MARS episode. The mystery is not really the thing here – the movie is about its main character making a life/career decision – but the whodunit aspect is typically twisty and twisted in the fashion of the series.

As the co-creator of MS. TREE, I appreciate the way creator Rob Thomas (co-writer and director here) transforms wise-guy PI dialogue – and a tough guy attitude – by placing them in the mouth and body of a lovely young woman. Veronica Mars is slightly off-kilter, at least a little nuts, like Mike Hammer, Jake Axminster and Nate Heller (and Ms. Tree). The film has plenty of call-back references to the show itself, and many, even most, cast members (including non-recurring ones) turn up in a way that will tickle fans but doesn’t get in the way of the appreciation of non-fans. Working on these two levels is terribly tricky, and I admire the screenplay for pulling off something that I feared might be impossible.

Everybody is good, but Bell is remarkable – so badly or unimaginatively used elsewhere (fie on you, HOUSE OF LIES), she has a confidence and ease in this role that indicates she is well aware it’s her signature one. Her father Keith, as played by Enrico Colantoni, is equally good, and remains the heart of VERONICA MARS. Jason Dohring as Veronica’s stormy love interest does a beautiful job of taking his character somewhere new while remaining the same guy…again, not easy. In fact, the entire film and its cast does well by the passage of time, and making a ten year class reunion for Neptune High a major set piece and plot mover here is just another example of how good Rob Thomas is with this property that he clearly loves.

The film, in its limited release, had an impressive opening weekend. It’s a unique release with VOD simultaneous and a Blu-ray/DVD coming very soon. I hope that the film’s success – and it already is a success, just by existing – leads either to more features or a renewed series. As much fun as it is to see VERONICA MARS on a bigger landscape – which Thomas managed to pull off on an under-$6 mil budget – this is a story and world best served by series television.

After all, VERONICA MARS is easily in the top ten private eye shows of all time. And in my top five – at the top.

Okay, since you asked nicely:

Runner up: PETER GUNN

* * *

Speaking of movies, a very nice if extremely belated review of REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET market has popped up at the Bookgasm movie spin-off, FLICK ATTACK.

Here’s a nice, smart review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

Finally, here’s a terrific Publisher’s Weekly review for the upcoming ANTIQUES CON:

“In Allan’s humorous eighth whodunit (after 2013’s Antiques Chop), Brandy Borne and her quirky mother, Vivian, travel from quiet Serenity, Iowa, along with their blind, diabetic shih tzu, Sushi, to New York City, where they hope to auction their prized possession—an original Superman drawing—at a comic convention. On arrival at Bufford Con, organized by comic purist Tommy Bufford, the pair soon learn that all is not well. The old comic convention guard are none too pleased about Tommy’s new competing event, which may explain why the prize pen ends up as a murder weapon. Mysterious deaths follow Brandy and Vivian wherever they go, but these two spunky out-of-towners always manage to find crafty ways to avoid sticky situations in the big city. Tips about comics collecting add to the cozy fun. Allan is the pseudonym of Barbara and Max Allan Collins.”


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3 Responses to “Veronica Mars Attacks”

  1. Steve Gursky says:

    Hi Max,

    Quick thank you for lead on Dick Tracy in B-Flat awhile back. We have all enjoyed it very much. It is plays on the Sirius Radio Classics station on occasion.

    Its always nice to read of someone remembering City of Angels. Wayne Rogers hit all the right notes. I remember being very disappointed it was so short lived. I have also just completed the second season of Veronica Mars and am having a wonderful time. Kristen Bell is fabulous and Enrico Colantoni is perfect as her father. My love of mystery / detective genres includes a great appreciation of characterization and relationships. I understand why you have it at the top of the list. I am very much looking forward to the third season and then the ten years later movie.

    If I’m remembering, even if it didn’t make it to your five list, you did enjoy 77 Sunset Strip. This remains my all time favorite show in any genre. I was especially appreciative of the episodes written by Roger Smith. I also thought that this show hit all the right notes. I enjoyed the Jack Webb season for what it was, but it wasn’t 77 Sunset Strip.

    My Tuesday isn’t complete until I’ve had a chance to read your blog.

    Steve Gursky

  2. I love CITY OF ANGELS. As for 77 SUNSET STRIP, I loved that show as a kid but have only seen it spottily since. Apparently there are rights issues that have prevented or at least slowed down its release on DVD. What shows I’ve seen in recent years betray it as spotty. Warner Bros TV series can be that way — they start out great but go down hill…even MAVERICK. The breaking point seems to be when the management handled a writer’s strike by recycling scripts, doing MAVERICK’s on 77 SUNSET STRIP, etc. That drove Garner out.

    What’s interesting about CITY OF ANGELS (you may know this) is that it’s based on the same source material as 77 SUNSET STRIP. Jake Axminster is really more like the Stuart Bailey of the Roy Huggins novel THE DOUBLE TAKE and his handful of novellas about the character (recycled as a 77 SUNSET STRIP TV tie-in paperback) than 77 SUNSET STRIP ever was. Lt. Quint is in THE DOUBLE TAKE, a receptionist like Marcia, a building based on the Bradbury Building and so on. I believe all of the Bailey stories were done on CITY OF ANGELS.

  3. Steve Gursky says:

    I understand your view of 77 SUNSET STRIP. It was as a kid that I watched and loved it as well. A whole bunch of years ago I was able to acquire a substantial amount of episodes on VHS, not many nor good quality on DVD. When my daughters were in their early teens we watched a lot of episodes together and it became one of their favorite shows.

    Double Take was lots of fun. I thought I had all of the Stuart Bailey stories but will not dig what I have out of my library to make sure.

    I had know idea that CITY OF ANGELS was based on the same source material as 77. Next up for me is seeking out CITY OF ANGELS to watch again. As usual… thanks for your wealth of information Max.