These days, Michael Shayne is all but forgotten, but at one time he was among the coolest things going in crime fiction "? so much so that 20th Century Fox bankrolled a series of feature films featuring Brett Halliday's detective character.

Four of these 12 genial crime dramas are collected in the two-disc "Michael Shayne Mysteries" box set: "Michael Shayne: Private Detective," "The Man Who Wouldn't Die," "Sleepers West" and "Blue, White and Perfect," all released between 1941 and 1942.

Their age shows in their innocence, but not in their presentation. Fox has done a tremendous job cleaning up these prints, which is admirable, considering these weren't exactly titles garnering much clamor.

Lloyd Nolan ("Peyton Place") dives into the role of Shayne, turning the hard-boiled gumshoe of print into a medium-boiled one as he gets himself out of a murder rap, goes up against diamond smugglers during World War II and investigates flimsily plotted but entertaining whodunits.

Of the extras, the most interesting is on Robert McGinnis, the legendary artist who supplied the covers to the Shayne paperbacks. His work is as sublime as this set. "?Rod Lott

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