Once upon a time, television was a place of wondrous discovery. The most strange and surprising things were liable to turn up at any time, despite the fact that most people only had 8 to 12 channels to choose from. Alas, with the advent of syndication and cable, those days have virtually disappeared. Now, we are blessed with 500 channels of bland, cookie cutter pap. Which brings me to the case at hand.
I saw "Conspiracy" at 3:05 CDT this morning. It ran on WLS Ch.7 in Chicago. Ch.7 - bless 'em! - is one of the last stations in existence to maintain a film library stocked with treasures that, in some cases, may not have been seen in the last 50 years. "Conspiracy" was one of those rare treats that TV used to be all about. It's a true oddity even for it's time ( 1930 ). Starring the redoubtable Ned Sparks, an actor once well enough known that Warner based a cartoon character - ( a suspender wearing rooster ) - upon him, it's about a woman in peril ( Bessie Love ), an intrepid reporter ( Hugh Trevor ) and a bizarre crime novelist named Winthrop Clavering who, for some reason, goes by the nickname of Little Nemo. Oh, and it's based upon a play, which helps explain some of the, at times, stilted dialogue.
As for details of the story; well, there really isn't much need to go into them. Oh, OK; a girl murders a mobster who is out to get her brother and spends the rest of the film dealing with the characters mentioned above, as well as trying to protect the brother from mob vengeance. Mostly the movie deals with the oddball Nemo, a cantankerous coot who is convinced he can outsmart the cops and solve the mystery. Still with me? The fascination of obscurities such as "Conspiracy" is that they give us a glimpse into a world that is so alien to most of us that it is positively breathtaking. These are characters that even a 60 year old codger such as myself find totally unfamiliar. For example, the heroin is clad in a fox stole that would give PETA the screaming heebie jeebies. I mean, this thing is so complete - head, tail and feet - that you almost expect it to start talking. Other period touches include a Black maid with a smart mouth, and assorted exotic villains who speak in indeterminate foreign accents and wear odd jewelry.
Now, if all this sounds as intriguing to you as it was to me, then I urge you to seek out "Conspiracy" at all costs. Unfortunately, it won't be easy. Perhaps a better idea would be to give your "local" cable company bloody heck for not having more programming such as this readily available. In either case, good luck!
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