Written by Max Allan Collins
(75 min. Film Noir/Holiday Fantasy)
Based on the novella, "A Wreath For Marley," in THE BIG BOOK OF CHRISTMAS MYSTERIES published by Vintage.
In 1942 Chicago, private eye Richard Stone is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his late partner, murdered a year ago. Escorted by three spirits, Stone must visit his past, present and future to find the killer...and redemption.
Chicago, 1942. Private eye Richard Stone celebrates in his office with his staff and key clients after bribing a Draft Board official to avoid military service. Among those present are his secretary Katie, a nice girl whose brother Ben is serving in the Pacific, and Maggie, not a nice woman, widow of Stone’s late partner, Jake Marley. Also present are his idealistic associate, Joey and his wife Linda; and Stone’s pal Sgt. Hank Ross of Homicide, a reminder that the P.I. has not bothered to try to solve Marley’s murder, a year ago tonight – Christmas Eve.
Falling asleep in his office, Stone is visited by Marley, doomed to an earth-bound purgatory because his partner didn’t bother to solve his murder. Outlaw Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie & Clyde), the Ghost of Christmas Past, escorts Stone to revisit his idyllic childhood farm upbringing. When the family homestead is foreclosed, a family friend gets young Stone a job on the local police department, where he falls in with shady Deputy Chief Marley. Together they go to the big city and become successful, corrupt private detectives. But even Stone’s crony Hank Ross of Homicide is shocked when Marley’s murder does not move Stone into action.
Stone is visited next by Katie’s young brother Ben, apparently home on leave. But Ben proves to be recently deceased in combat – he’s the Ghost of Christmas Present, providing Stone with a look at Maggie and important client Turner having an affair. Maggie’s brother Eddie faces mob guns because Stone refused to help him pay off gambling debts; and Katie, her mother and sister on Christmas morning receive the terrible news about Ben.
The Ghost of Christmas Future comes calling, but Stone does not recognize the King (the otherwise unnamed Elvis Presley). The King reveals to Stone that Joey is about to quit – his pregnant wife Linda will go to work at a defense plant. Also, Stone sees Maggie and Turner getting married in Las Vegas...and witnesses his future self winding up on Death Row, convicted of Marley’s murder.
On Christmas Day, a changed man thanks to the ghostly visits, Stone confronts the killer and brings him (or is it her?) to justice. Then Stone goes to spend Christmas with Katie and her little family, knowing a terrible telegram is about to arrive.
MAX ALLAN COLLINS
MAX ALLAN COLLINS was named a Grand Master in 2017 by the Mystery Writers of America. He is a three-time winner of the Private Eye Writers of America “Shamus” award, receiving the PWA “Eye” for Life Achievement (2006) and their “Hammer” award for making a major contribution to the private eye genre with his Nathan Heller historical series (2012). His graphic novel Road to Perdition (1998) became the Academy Award-winning film directed by Sam Mendes and starring Tom Hanks. His other comics credits include the syndicated strip “Dick Tracy”; “Batman”; and his own “Ms. Tree” and “Wild Dog.” His innovative Quarry novels were adapted as a 2016 TV series by Cinemax. He has completed thirteen “Mike Hammer” novels begun by the late Mickey Spillane; and his audio novel, Mike Hammer: The Little Death with Stacy Keach, won a 2011 Audie. For five years, he was sole licensing writer for TV’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, creating best-selling novels, graphic novels, and video games. His movie tie-in novels have appeared on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists, including Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One, and American Gangster. Collins has written and directed four features and two documentaries, all produced in Iowa. His features include the Lifetime movie Mommy (1996) and the documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane (1998), featured on Criterion’s release of Kiss Me Deadly. Caveman showcases the life of Iowa cartoonist V.T. Hamlin, creator of Alley Oop, a documentary co-production with the University of Iowa. His Edgar-nominated play Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life (2004) became an Iowa PBS special. In 1995 Collins scripted The Expert, a HBO World Premiere, and in 2009, The Last Lullaby from his novel The Last Quarry. Working with his longtime collaborator Phillip W. Dingeldein, and Chad Bishop of Muscatine Community College, he recently directed a video version of his play Encore for Murder with a predominantly local cast. In 1969 Collins earned a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop in 1971. He taught English at at Muscatine Community College from 1971 - 1976. He has performed as a vocalist and keyboard player with the Daybreakers (1966 – 71) and Crusin’, (1974 - to date). Both bands have been inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Collins and his wife, writer Barbara Collins, are lifetime residents of Muscatine; as “Barbara Allan,” they have collaborated on twenty novels, including the “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mysteries, Antiques Flee Market (2008) winning the Romantic Times Best Humorous Mystery Novel award of 2009. Their son Nathan, also a Muscatine resident, has translated numerous novels into English from Japanese, as well as video games and manga.
COURTNEY COOPER is a passionate and accomplished theater professional. She as both starred and directed a wide array of local and regional productions. She currently is contracted by the Muscatine Community College Theater Department as the Spring and Summer semester play/musical director.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
PHILLIP W. DINGELDEIN
PHILLIP DINGELDEIN is the CEO of Dphilms and production executive for TAG advertisting agency (Davenport, IA). Working in all areas of the film and video industry, Phil has built an impressive resume as a director of photography and editor over the last 30 years. He has acted as director of photography for five motion pictures, including “Mommy” and “Mommy's Day,” “Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market,” and “Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life.” His TV projects range from shooting segments for TV shows such as Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Maury Povich to commercials and corporate videos for Fortune 500 Companies. Whether setting direction, working behind the camera, or in the edit suite, Phil brings talent, expertise and creative direction to his projects. The motion picture and film business is Phil’s heart and soul. If you want to see him light up, just talk about how cool it is to make a profession out of your passion.
BARBARA COLLINS is a highly respected short story writer in the mystery field, with appearances in over a dozen top anthologies, with her stories selected for inclusion in the first three volumes of The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. As “Barbara Allan” (with her husband Max), Barbara is co-author of the Trash ‘n’ Treasures cozy mystery series (Antiques Liquidation). The fourth entry, Antiques Flee Market, won the Romantic Times award for Best Humorous Mystery of 2008. Barbara and Max have also written two thrillers together (Bombshell, Regeneration), now back in print, and the forthcoming novella, Cut-out. Barbara was production manager on the Iowa-produced indie films Mommy, Mommy’s Day, Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market and Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life. Her short story, “World’s Greatest Mother,” was made into an IMPA award-winning short film.
CHAD T. BISHOP
CHAD T. BISHOP has been working in the video/TV industry my entire life. It all began at the University of IOWA as a communication's major who found an interest for media and film. Chad has a passion to communicate with media; whether it be through commercial work, storytelling, branding, educational, corporate, or film production, the process of influencing our humanity inspires me. Over the course of his expansive career, he has established a network of production partners and resources. He helps projects excel with respect to their marketing and communicational goals. He has a passion as a project PRODUCER for both special events and film/video/TV. He has produced dozens of local TV programs and short films. He has produced a feature length film as well, entitled "The Baker Project". He is the producer and director of the Muscatine Independent Film Festival as well as numerous theaterical and musical productions. He personally specializes in POST -PRODUCTION, having recently also developed his skills sets as a cinematographer, gaffer, producer and project manager.
KAREN COONEY was the producer for Encore For Murder, which featured a script by Max Allan Collins and starred Gary Sandy (WKRP in Cinncinnati). Her passion for the theater, combined with years of experience producing and directing theater will be leveraged in her role as line producer.
JEREMY FERGUSON is an award winning screenplay writer, currently enrolled in the Univeristy of Iowa's Cinema Studies Program. He works at the Muscatine Community College as a Media Tech, producing local television content. Jeremy owns and operates Black Rose Pictures, as an outlet for his passion for filmmaking. He will serve this project as crew for Dreampost Media Services, as a camera operator and lighting grip/gaffer.
PROOF OF CONCEPT
This clip features a teaser from a recent production entitled "Encore For Murder". This project was written and directed by Max Allan Collins. Chad Bishop co-produced and edited the video presentation. Phil Dingeldein served as the director of photography. While "Blue Christmas" would have a different production aesthetic, this clip does serve as an example of the "Detective Noir/Crime" genre, as well as an example of Max's writing. We hope to cast several members of this cast in "Blue Christmas", including Gary Sandy (WKRP in Cincinatti).