This turkey is reasonably well roasted, and even features some side dishes that are interesting to learn more about. The ending of The Limping Man, however, is so arbitrary and dishonest it makes clear how little regard for the audience, or for the integrity of their own movie, the producers must have had.
World War II vet Frank Prior (Lloyd Bridges) returns to London from America after six years to look up an old flame, Pauline French (Moira Lister), now a successful actress. As he and the other passengers deplane and walk across to the terminal, Frank pauses for a moment and asks the man beside him for a light. There's a gunshot and the man crumples to the ground, shot by a marksman with a high-powered rifle, an assassin with a limp. The dead man was named Kendall Brown. With Inspector Braddock (Alan Wheatley) and Detective Cameron (Leslie Phillips) on the case, it's clear that Prior is as mystified as everyone else. After Prior leaves the police to find Pauline, Wheatley and Cameron visit Brown's lodgings...and find a photo of a good-looking young woman. Yes, the photo is of Pauline French. It's not long before Frank Prior is up to his neck in murderous intrigue. The mix includes blackmail, smuggling, magic acts, gritty Thames-side docks, backstage theater doings, a pouting French singer and, Frank discovers, some indiscretions in Pauline's past. The plot, under Cy Endfield's direction, keeps moving briskly ahead. The photography is nifty, with lots of nighttime eeriness, shadowy theater cellars and fear-filled eyes highlighted in the gloom.
But the movie reeks of class-conscious accents and acting. Whole generations of British actors, if they were to have a hope of succeeding as lead players, had to master that plummy, nasal, upper-class diction that was supposed to be the hallmark of an English gentleman or lady. When sound came to the movies, that social stratification based on how one spoke was enforced with a vengeance. Things began to change for lead players only when Michael Caine hit the big-time in Britain and kept his Cockney accent. So here's Leslie Phillips, who grew to be a fine farceur, slim, young and in a supporting role as Cameron. He was raised in poverty with a Cockney accent. His mother was determined that he'd have a chance at a better life so she saw that he had elocution lessons. Phillips wound up with one of the ripest upper-class accents you can imagine, and in a long career he has used it to great, leering effect. His Cameron is very keen on the female figure, a characteristic Phillips, now in his eighties and still acting, has in real life. Phillips is a character and great fun to watch. One of his best roles is as Lord Flamborough in 1994's Love on a Branch Line. It's one of those British television productions that you'll either be delighted by or puzzled with. Moira Lister's Pauline French (Lister was born and raised in South Africa) sounds like the carefully educated daughter of the English landed aristocracy, the kind of woman who schedules her love life with her husband as meticulously as she schedules her social engagements with her equals, and with considerably less frequency. Lister was a successful actress on the stage as well as in the movies. She sounds a little like Joan Greenwood. She gives such an overly bred, mannered performance it seems unlikely she'd ever be attracted to an American ex-GI like Lloyd Bridge's Frank Prior. However, one of the pleasures of the movie is that Frank flies into London on a Lockheed Constellation. We see several shots of this most graceful of airplanes flying and on the ground.
The ending of The Limping Man is a complete cheat. While some of us might enjoy at least some of this movie's 76 minutes, and I'm one of them, its conclusion left me feeling that I'd just been made a fool of.
Cy Endfield, who directed the movie, did so under the name of Charles De la Tour, a man he paid to front for him. Endfield was blackballed in Hollywood during the witch-hunts. He could no longer get directing jobs so he left for Britain with his family. The only way his early British movies could be released in America was by hiding his name. He stayed in Britain and went on to direct using his real name Zulu, Mysterious Island, Sands of the Kalahari and others.