To Fox's amazement, the dreadful "Inspector Hornleigh" movie was a huge success, especially in the provinces where Monday at Seven enjoyed by default (there was little else on offer by way of entertainment) a truly enormous following. Cinema managers were quick to capitalize on "Inspector Hornleigh" by playing the movie as their main Saturday night attraction. When an avalanche of unexpected profits started to pour in, Fox quickly realized they were on a winner. A sequel was called for. The scenario department had a novel called "Stolen Death" by Leo Grex on hand. This was handed over to the studio's top writing team, Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who were told to let their heads go, as money was no object for this major "A" production.
Actually, the budget was only about ten or twelve times that spent on the original entry. All the same, Launder and Gilliat turned in a delightful script that deftly combined laughs and thrills, with the accent, if anything, more on the latter than the former. Moreover, the humor arises naturally from the situations and is neither superimposed nor artlessly drawn out as in the first film. A top support cast, led by the super-lovely Linden Travers (as the passionate femme fatale), Edward Chapman (the villain who starts the corpses rolling) and Cyril Conway (a radio actor whose actual face was totally unknown to moviegoers), was engaged by a really on-the-ball casting director (had Weston Drury transferred from Teddington to Gaumont at this stage or was it later in 1939 or early in 1940?). Jack Cox, at this time Britain's number one cinematographer, Alex Vetchinsky, the premier art director, and Robert Dearing, the brilliant film editor, were also assigned to the production. And to direct, the studio called in Walter Forde, an artist whose standing was so high in the profession, he could afford to free-lance, either taking his choice of plum assignments offered him by the major companies, or setting up his own projects. Of course, although Edward Black is credited as producer, he had absolutely nothing to do with the actual shooting of the picture. Once Walter Forde was signed, the production reins were handed over to Forde's wife, Culley. Walter and Culley Forde always worked as a team, Walter directing, Culley producing. It was a perfect combination. Culley was tough. She ruled the set with an iron hand and deferred to no-one except Walter.
From his own extensive background in music hall comedy, Walter Forde had an intimate knowledge of laughter-making. He applied his talents to the Harker-Sim team. The first thing he did was to induce Harker to tone down his performance and play the role perfectly straight. Inspector Hornleigh is grumpy, yes; but stupid, no. He's also smug, self-centered, arrogant, and self-indulgent. Sergeant Bingham is still his foil, even more so than in the first movie, which explains why a clever man like Hornleigh keeps him around. Bingham is no Einstein, but he's not the total lack-wit he presents in the first adventure. He's no coward either, and although he's forced by his superior to take all sorts of hair-raising risks, he does just that, even if somewhat complainingly and hilariously reluctantly. The script cleverly builds up these situations, making each more dangerous and perverse, from the noirish creepy old house and grave-ribbing sequences right up to the thrilling roof-top climax.
"Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday" induces more than enough laughs to qualify as one of the year's top comedies, yet is sufficiently thrilling and atmospherically grotesque to be considered as film noir. (Oddly, despite their immense popularity, none of the Hornleigh movies are currently available on commercial DVD, although they have been frequently televised by Channel 4).