By Jeff Walsh
"On The Other Hand, Death" is the latest Donald Strachey mystery starring Chad Allen (playing now on the Here! Network). But if that's not enough to hold you, a fourth installment called "Ice Blues" is coming out in September. As a fan of the first two Strachey movies, these two have the same fun charm as the earlier outings.
In "On The Other Hand, Death," Strachey investigates the story of an older lesbian couple. One half of the couple (Margot Kidder) is a high school guidance counselor that is a target of harassment since coming out to the school, and the couple is also being harassed for being the only people not willing to sell their home as part of a huge deal to bring a large store chain to their sleepy suburb.
There are other interconnected subplots involving both sides of the lesbian couple's story, but the Strachey stories make it pretty easy to swallow and a fun time. The director really loves putting a lot of classic noir nods throughout the movie, which always make it enjoyable.
Chad Allen is the key to making these work, though, which is evident in that this is the third of four Strachey movies that has been filmed (out of six that are planned) with him in the lead role.
He has a committed, monogamous relationship with his political husband (Sebastian Spence), a playful relationship with his hot assistant (Nelson Wong), and a fractured relationship with the local police. Even the cases, which play off of hot button gay issues could seem overwhelming and trite, but they really have a handle on how to do these movies right.
But, this movie strikes the perfect balance of not taking itself too seriously and being just a fun ride.
In "Ice Blues," we get to see Strachey in refreshingly new territory: the plot isn't gay-related. Umm… is that even allowed? I guess so. And it was interesting to see that the dynamics of the characters and story still worked well.
This time, the story begins with Strachey tied up with his arms over his head, as he's being zapped with electricity. No, he and his boyfriend aren't exploring a new kink, Strachey's just in over his head again. We quickly flash back to two days earlier and start charting the progress that will lead to that scene.
Strachey finds himself up against sleazy guys being protected by a corrupt law firm, a storyline improved by the appearance of Sherry Miller (who I loved in jPod that recently aired on Canadian TV).
I don't want to repeat myself, but "Ice Blues" continues the playful, wink-nod series that is so expertly put together by director Ron Oliver. They are never overly serious, just a fun, campy ride with a great blend of action, humor, noir, and drama that celebrates a gay monogamous couple in dangerous situations. Find them, rent them, enjoy them.