Plot: Michael Shayne (Hugh Beaumont) always seems to be buried in one case or another, but his long suffering secretary Phyllis (Trudy Marshall) has finally found some time to take a vacation. As the two practice their duck calls before departure however, Shayne finds himself drawn into another mystery and of course, Phyllis is none too pleased with the derailed plans. Although Shayne has been asked to leave cases alone many times, this is the first time he’s been asked to back off a case that he wasn’t even aware of. He’s approached by multiple people to leave a racetrack dispute alone, which of course, makes Shayne all the more interested. A big win at the horse track has made some remarkable payouts for some folks, but the trouble is that there are more tickets than there should be. As Shayne looks into the situation, he finds himself in the middle of perhaps his toughest, most convoluted case ever, one that has endless suspects and danger around every corner.
Entertainment Value: Too Many Winners is the fifth and final Michael Shayne picture from Producers Releasing Company, which took over the detective’s license after Fox’s run of Shayne mysteries. The narrative here is a lot to take in, with an overly dense core plot, a tidal wave of false leads, and a wealth of twists, all packed into about an hour of duration. The shorter run time is in line with the previous installments, but for the most part, the stories were light and brisk to match. In this case, we have a kitchen sink style approach and while I appreciate the “leave it all on the field” attempt here, it does feel like too much at times. I still had fun here, but I think those looking for a simple, straight ahead mystery might be overwhelmed here, especially since the narrative doesn’t exactly wrap things up all that well. So as a finale for the PRC Shayne series, it doesn’t have the grand sendoff some fans might want, but I still think there’s entertainment here and the overall movie is solid. Yes, Too Many Winners is convoluted and tries to do too much, but there’s still a lot to like in this one. So for fans of the Shayne character or old school mysteries, this is worth a peek.
I had a good time visiting these PRC Michael Shayne movies, as they might be a little low rent compared to big studio mystery pictures, but they’re well made and have more than solid casts. I’ve talked a lot about Hugh Beaumont in the reviews for the series and I think he is the main reason the movies work so well, as he is a terrific lead and brings the character to life in style. I think he handles the charm and snappy dialogue the character requires and in Too Many Winners, those qualities are on full showcase, giving him a proper curtain call as Shayne. I wouldn’t call this my favorite of Beaumont’s turns in the role however, as the story is a little clunky, but he still shines and gets the character’s strengths across. The series rotates out some of the performers in the other prominent roles, but Beaumont was a constant in these give movies and to me, he was a great anchor here. Ralph Dunn returns as Shayne’s rival Inspector Rafferty and the two have good banter, as usual. I’m glad Dunn was able to be present in this final PRC Shayne picture, as he is a fun performer and brings a lot to the movie, especially in the scenes he shared with Beaumont. The cast also includes Claire Carleton, John Hamilton, and Trudy Marshall.
The Disc: As with the rest of the PRC Michael Shayne movies, ClassicFlix has given Too Many Winners a new restoration and for those who have waited for a proper home video treatment, this is what you’ve been anticipating. The print has been spruced up a lot and looks terrific, with only light debris and wear signs, which is nothing short of a minor miracle in this case. The black & white visuals boast rock solid detail and depth, while contrast is sharp and consistent. You can really appreciate the improvements if you check out the included restoration demonstration, which shows just how much work ClassicFlix invested in this release.
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