Sunday, March 24, 2019

Nancy Drew Books: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #129

If anyone finds The Hidden Staircase, please return to the East Sandy Elementary Library.....

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Nancy Drew & Her Mysterious History Featured on CBC q

I was interviewed for CBC Radio q on Nancy Drew and the segment aired today. The segment focuses on Nancy Drew and the new pilot for the CW and the new Nancy Drew & The Hidden Staircase movie from Warner Brothers, plus I discuss the Stratemeyer Syndicate and Nancy Drew and her mysterious history as I am writing a biography of the first Carolyn Keene - Mildred Wirt Benson - a real life Nancy Drew. Click here to listen.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Series Book Collectibles: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #1

Did you ever watch that 70s Hardy Boys Mysteries show? You know the one with Frank Hardy and his brother Mr. Knuffles?!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Nancy Drew Hidden Staircase Movie Review


Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase releases today, March 15, in select AMC theaters around the US. It's a limited release and will go to DVD soon. Support of the movie and DVD sales will help boost the possibility of a sequel and I hope there will be one. If you actually haven't read this infamous classic Nancy Drew book, I recommend seeing the film first and then checking out my review.

What you'll find with this review of the movie is a fan's perspective and comparison between the Nancy Drew books which I know well and the movie. The movie is based on the classic Nancy Drew book, The Hidden Staircase, which was also made into a movie in 1939 starring Bonita Granville. Both movies focus on the haunted mansion in the book, the 1939 movie being based on the original 1930 text version written by ghostwriter Mildred Wirt Benson and this current movie starring Sophia Lillis as Nancy Drew is based on the 1959 revised version (currently still in print today) of Benson's story.  Both revolve around the haunting of an old mansion and ghostly happenings that Nancy must get to the bottom of. If you haven't read the book before, I recommend you read it after seeing the movie.Visit my website to learn more about Benson, whose favorite Nancy Drew book was Hidden Staircase. I'm currently writing a biography about Benson who was a real-life Nancy Drew in her own right and you can check out an article I wrote about her that was published at last year and recently reprinted in The Saturday Evening Post.

Written by Nina Fiore and John Herrera, the script attempts to modernize Hidden Staircase for today's generation of kids - the target audience for this movie and they do a good job of adapting it. There are "Easter eggs" to elements from the classic books and Hidden Staircase as well that fans of all ages should enjoy. Director Katt Shea, Exec producers Ellen DeGeneres and Wendy Williams did a great job as well as the rest of the cast and crew. It's never easy to adapt a popular character - especially from beloved books - to the big screen and I think overall they achieved their goal of doing so in a way that sticks close enough to the source material to make even the ficklest of fans relatively happy overall.

Modern technology is a part of today's generation, so that's been updated in this movie. Nancy even uses the flashlight on her cell phone when she forgets to bring her flashlight to snoop around the haunted Twin Elms mansion. Lucky for her a young Deputy Patrick, who admires Nancy, has a vintage-like shaped flashlight for Nancy to sleuth with.

There are quite a few elements from the book fans will recognize in the film - the train and local politics, the haunted mansion, threats from the villain, Nancy's dad Carson going out of town and getting himself kidnapped, a hideous mask outside of the window to scare everyone, radios playing all of a sudden, shadows and other strange happenings around the mansion, discovering the hidden staircase and more. This is an origin story as it's the first movie, so there was a lot to introduce among the characters and their relationships. I liked the relationship between Nancy and her Dad - it was respectful like in the books and yet modern for today's times. Nancy's housekeeper Hannah is now her Aunt Hannah in this movie, her father Carson's sister. Nancy's mom has passed away and she and her dad have relocated to River Heights from Chicago, to live with Aunt Hannah. River Heights, compared to Chicago, bores Nancy a bit, but soon excitement follows her.

Classic Nancy Drew elements that any fan of Nancy Drew will recognize include the titles in the beginning sequence of the film in blue letters with a yellow background evocative of the current in print "flashlight" picture covers.

Other elements are the color blue - in the movie it was Nancy's mom's favorite color as it was hers in the books. Nancy doesn't have a blue convertible to drive of her own, but her skateboarding helmet is blue. She does attempt - quite poorly - to drive her Aunt Hannah's blue convertible. The opening scene complete with Emily Bear's song, "More Than Just A Girl" is a powerful message - one that resonates, as in the books villains were often underestimating Nancy and her abilities because she was a "mere slip of a girl" or due to her age.

Other classic book elements include Nancy seeking justice, wearing a disguise, Hannah's baking prowess, Nancy looking for logical explanations for ghostly things as she never believed in ghosts in the books, Nancy bravely facing the ghost(s), a secret room/hidden staircase, chloroform, lock picking and trespassing to sleuth, following footprints, checking out for hollow spots and sleuthing to find a hidden way into the mansion. A next-mystery-notice like the books would have at the end, pops up at the end of the movie to clue you into what the sequel might be about - and you guessed it - another classic Nancy Drew mystery!

There is humor - Linda Lavin plays a great Aunt Flora and I enjoyed her very much in the role as the eccentric aunt from the book. We learn her former burlesque dancer name from decades before was Strawberry DeVille and she was worried she was losing it over seeing ghosts - or as she puts it - her cheese sliding off her cracker. 

My advice to anyone adapting Nancy Drew to TV or film has always been to not stray too far from characterization or source material as the fan base - who are also part of the majority of those who will turn out for a niche character movie like this - can be negative about too much change. I think this movie, while it has its changes in part to modernize the story, overall doesn't stray too far from basic concepts in Nancy's world - friendship, mysteries, and loyalty. No matter how many threats to stay off the case or else or how baffling the mystery, Nancy's always seeking justice and righting wrongs. Those are concepts that are ingrained in the character of Nancy and are her driving force in this movie. The movie is a good family friendly movie, unlike the upcoming CW Nancy Drew pilot being filmed in Vancouver which is a much edgier take on Nancy Drew for the older CW audience. So families should take their kids to see this film and get the DVD when it's released.

There are changes - Nancy's only 16 (instead of 18) and is still in school. Helen is considered more of a mean girl at first and in the book she was Nancy's friend, but they work out their "feud" in this movie in order to help Helen's Aunt Flora. George (characterized really well in a very George way by Zoe Renee) is African American, she and Bess don't appear to be cousins, they were also not in this book, as they were not introduced until book #5, so they are appearing out of order, but fans really shouldn't care too much about those changes. These things are inconsequential and I honesty didn't care about them as I was watching the movie. Bess is a bubbly blonde in the books who is into fashion and boys, but in this movie she's a science nerd who gets bullied by a popular athlete at school and Nancy and George rally to help her overcome that in a form of vigilante justice that Nancy later regrets, and has to face the consequences of. Nancy is more tomboyish in this film, but overall that didn't bother me. She was still the same determined resourceful character as she was in the books and that was really all that mattered. There are good lessons learned in this film too - that revenge is not the answer and you should never stoop to a bad person's level to solve your problems - and if you do, you should face consequences of your actions, as Nancy does. But there are also lessons on friendship and sticking together and helping others in need that are quintessential elements of the classic Nancy Drew books. Nancy is inspiring in the books and is also inspiring to today's generation in this movie.

Nancy teases her friends in the end that she's giving up mysteries for Instagram, boys and doing her nails and then winks at the audience and let's us know she's just kidding. Clearly Nancy Drew will always be a mystery magnet! And we wouldn't have her any other way.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase Movie Premiere

Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase debuts on March 15 in select AMC theaters around the US. I was able to attend the official premiere on Sunday, March 10 in LA at the AMC Century City theater and it was so much fun. I met up with the team from Her Interactive, whose Nancy Drew computer games are so much fun, their latest soon to be released Midnight in Salem comes out this year. There were snacks and selfie areas set up in the theater - including a neat giant magnifying glass,  the facade of Twin Elms, the haunted mansion from the book and movie and a skateboard you could pose on as if you were skating like Nancy from the movie.


The movie was fun and I enjoyed it overall - a much more straight portrayal of book Nancy than the 2007 Nancy Drew attempt was, so that was great.

Before the film, producers and the director Katt Shea said a few words and welcomed everyone. Katt sported one of our Nancy Drew Clutch Bags from The Sleuth Shop that I gave her. I thought she did a great job directing the film.


I got to meet "Nancy Drew" a.k.a. actress Sophia Lillis who signed my Nancy Drew Hidden Staircase book on which the movie was based. She was great and is currently reading the classic Nancy Drew books. I enjoyed her as Nancy Drew and thought she did a good job. Executive Producer Wendy Williams was so nice to talk to and shared her family having passed down the Nancy Drew books to her, she was a fan! Everyone was very nice and they were all excited about the film coming out and the DVD release and possible sequels.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Nancy Drew Books: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #128

Someone better check on Kelly's whereabouts! Her arch nemesis Beattie's taken her Nancy Drew book. Next think you know Beattie's styling her hair just like Kelly and trying to steal her boyfriend and solve all her mysteries!

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Nancy Drew & The Hidden Staircase Movie Poster Giveaway

I'll be giving away posters from the new Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase movie, out in theaters March 15! In order to be entered to win a poster, comment on this blog and let me know what your favorite Nancy Drew book is and why it's your favorite.

Comments between now and March 14 will be entered and the drawing will be done on March 15 the day the movie comes out. I'll announce the winners here in an update to this posting.

UPDATE: In thee drawing of blog comments here and all FB posting comments on our FB pages, we have a winner of a Nancy Drew movie poster! Winner is Colleen T. and I'll message you for details on where to ship your poster!

Photo Credit: ©Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Nancy Drew Books: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #127

Little did Nancy know when she asked Madame Alexandra to rip that Jewel Box open, a pandora's box of fire and water would be unleashed!