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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

The Original Nancy Drew Movie Mystery Collection (review)

Nancy Drew was all the rage in the 1930s, when the spunky teenage mystery fiction heroine made her literary debut, and clearly Warner Bros. is hoping that she will be again, in 2007, with its current flick, starring Julia Roberts’ niece, Emma, as the girl detective. Hence this new package containing all four of the very first Nancy movies (also Warner Bros. properties, of course), released in a flurry of amateur-detectiving activity in 1938 and 1939. The amiable 15-year-old Bonita Granville stars as Nancy in Nancy Drew: Dectective, Nancy Drew: Reporter, Nancy Drew: Troubleshooter, and Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, investigating a missing heiress, snooping out a poisoner, and generally making a nuisance of herself with the criminal element in small-town River Heights. A few years ago I reviewed a single-movie DVD release of Reporter, and I’m afraid I called Granville’s Nancy “damn annoying,” an “interfering brat,” and “so perky and enterprising – and so capable of escaping certain doom so darn easily – that you just want to smack her.” And it’s all still true. But there’s an undeniable gosh-darn golden-age charm to her and to these brisk (60 minutes or so) and spirited adventures. Today’s tweens who are adventurous enough to brave a black-and-white movie will be delighted, if few others. (Fair warning to serious home-theater fanatics: the original image and sound have not been cleaned up, and major flaws mar the film; sound is mono only.) [buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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