Thursday, 7 November 2019
A couple of days ago, apropos of nothing, I decided to search YouTube for The Three Investigators. The books, a “juvenile detective series” from the 1960s featuring three friends who solved mysteries under the benevolent aegis of a fictionalised Alfred Hitchcock, were a favourite of mine when I was growing up (alongside their more famous literary sleuthing contemporaries, such as the Famous Five, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew), and I wondered if there existed any videos by fellow fans, or even interviews with the creators.
Instead, what I discovered was an obscure German-produced but American starring (although only ever released in Germany) feature film adaptation from 2007, The Three Investigators and the Secret of Skeleton Island. Although it looks like it diverges quite substantially from the plot of the 1966 book from which it takes its name, it was still interesting to finally see the characters of Jupiter, Pete and Bob finally made flesh. The latter was actually played by a young Cameron Monaghan, who would later go on to star as Ian Gallagher in the US remake of Shameless, as well as roles in Gotham and various other successful TV shows.
The Wikipedia entry for the book series is fascinating. Aside from the original run of books in the US, they were also either adapted or extended with new material for eager readers in Bangladesh, Lithuania, France, Italy, plus a host of other countries — none more enthusiastic than Germany, where “Die drei Fragezeichen” (“The Three Question Marks”) were first re-published, then turned into radio plays, before finally German writers began producing brand new Three Investigators books. Eventually more than 200 new stories were published, with corresponding radio dramas which the voice actors regularly toured around the country, performing in front of huge live audiences.
The Germans were apparently so mad for the series that it seeped into their popular culture in other ways; there are bands named after characters from the books (Jupiter Jones make inoffensive indie rock), and several songs by other German artists feature samples from the radio plays or narration by the original voice actors. Verrückt!
Nowadays, of course, you can watch the whole film on YouTube for free: