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 seemed to wane, 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.


    (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

    6 episodes

    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

    Based on the short story by Raymond Chandler
    Teleplay by C. Gaby Mitchell
    Directed by Tom Hanks
    Starring Bruno Kirby as TONY RESICK
    Also starring Dan Hedaya, Marg Helgenberger, Jon Polito, Dick Miller, Peter Scolari, Tom Hanks, Manny Perry

    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

    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.

    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

    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

    9 episodes

    (November 1994)
    Starring James DuMont, Giancarlo Esposito and Bill Nunn

    Based on "The Dancing Detective" by Cornell Woolrich
    Teleplay by Allan Scott
    Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
    Starring Jennifer Grey, Eric Stoltz, Richard Portnow

    (October 8, 1995)
    Directed by Kiefer Sutherland
    Starring Mädchen Amick, Kiefer Sutherland

    (November 5, 1995)
    Based on the short story by Mickey Spillane
    Directed by John Dahl
    Starring Bill Pullman, Heather Graham

    (November19, 1995)
    Based on the short story by Cornell Wollrich
    Written by Don Macpherson
    Directed by Keith Gordon
    Starring Miguel Ferrer, Lucinda Jenney, Grace Zabriskie

    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.

    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

    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.

    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


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.


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 video cassettes way back in the early nineties, 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. But, of course, British DVDs won't run on most North American players.

Three episodes from the first season: "Since I Don't Have You," "The Frightening Frammis," and "Murder Obliquely."

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.

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