On The Other Hand, Death: A Donald Strachey Mystery

  • 2008
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Crime

The third made-for-cable feature adapted from Richard Stevenson's popular mystery series is gay in both senses of the word: The films are light, snappy and dryly funny in the spirit of the THIN MAN movies, but that their Nick and Nora Charles -- happily married partners whose lives are inextricably bound up with Nick's work -- happen to be men. Private...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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The third made-for-cable feature adapted from Richard Stevenson's popular mystery series is gay in both senses of the word: The films are light, snappy and dryly funny in the spirit of the THIN MAN movies, but that their Nick and Nora Charles -- happily married partners whose lives are inextricably bound up with Nick's work -- happen to be men.

Private eye Donald Strachey (Chad Allen), who regularly butts heads with the Albany police force, has really pissed them off by compromising some top-secret investigation: It seems the sexy dame whose husband hired him to see if she was straying is actually an undercover cop named Lori Ann Triolo (Gina Santer) and she doesn't have a husband. Worse still, Strachey's client paid in cash, gave a fake name and left Strachey bogus contact information -- he might as well be a ghost. Detective Bailey (Daryl Shuttleworth), with whom Strachey has a prickly relationship rooted in a certain grudging respect, cuts him loose on two conditions: Strachey will stay the hell away from Triolo and promise to tell him as soon as he hears from or learns anything about the elusive client.

Meanwhile, Strachey's boyfriend, cultured, Jesuit-educated state's attorney Tim Callahan (Sebastian Spence), has been drawn into a troubling situation in nearby blue-collar Hollis by his old boyfriend, successful, mediagenic and incredibly hot attorney Andrew McWhirter (Damon Runyan). A parents' group is demanding the dismissal of longtime high school guidance counselor Dorothy Fisher (Margot Kidder), who's shared a house with her partner, Edith Strongin (Gabrielle Rose), for decades but only came out -- quietly but firmly -- a couple of years ago. The community seemed to adjust, but in recent months Edith and Dorothy's house has been repeatedly vandalized and conservative single father Jonas Baskin (William MacDonald) is stirring up sentiment against Dorothy with accusations that she's promoting a homosexual agenda because she referred Baskin's deeply troubled teenaged son (Keegan MacIntosh) to a suicide hotline for "gay and questioning youth." Andrew, an old friend of Dorothy's, is willing to help her fight in court for her job, her home and her right to live openly as a lesbian; she relishes the prospect, but the high-strung Edith would just as soon move to Vermont and leave upstate New York to the rednecks. A ndrew also seems awfully interested in spending time with Tim, and the rough-around-the-edges Strachey is a little jealous. He agrees to help investigate the Hollis situation in part because he likes Dorothy and Edith -- especially Edith, who's a real pistol -- and in part to keep an eye on Andrew. But the more he learns, the more complicated the picture becomes: Edith and Dorothy's troubles may not be about homophobia at all.

Veteran filmmaker Ron Oliver directed both previous Donald Strachey films, THIRD MAN OUT (2005) and A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM (2006), which helps account for their consistent tone: They're light, formulaic genre entertainment whose formula includes a crime with enough twists to keep the plot moving without being mentally taxing, some violence (not too much, not too sadistic) to keep the stakes up, tough-guy talk at work and comfortable banter at home, including the kind of mild innuendo that wouldn't raise an eyebrow if Donald and Tim weren't both men.

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  • Released: 2008
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The third made-for-cable feature adapted from Richard Stevenson's popular mystery series is gay in both senses of the word: The films are light, snappy and dryly funny in the spirit of the THIN MAN movies, but that their Nick and Nora Charles -- happily ma… (more)

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