29 December 2017 | robin-benson
A warm glow of nostalgia but very little else
I'm old enough to remember seeing some of these at the local ABC, Odeon or Gaumont decades ago. I thought they were pretty dreadful then and having seen the thirteen again I still think so. Now however they have assumed a warm glow of nostalgia of evenings at the flics seeing some Hollywood blockbuster, trailers, Pearl & Dean ads, maybe a cartoon or two and another Lustgarten 'Scales of justice' second feature.
Lustgarten's presence was rather irrelevant, especially his ponderous introductions describing the crimes we were about to see and he gave the impression that the stories were based on real crimes but they were so mundane, in the criminal sense, that every drama was basically fiction.
The thirteen 'Scales of justice' films were really the poor relation to the forty-seven 'Edgar Wallace mysteries' that Merton Park Studios churned out through the sixties with Jack Greenwood as the producer for all of them but then he was the boss of Merton Park. So these SoJ movies had to wrap it all up in twenty-five minutes or so when the Wallace series had the luxury of about fifty-five minutes. Both series though had the same faults: cheapness (all the interior sets look exactly like film sets) hopelessly unimaginative direction (a phone rings and someone always looks in the direction of the ringing) endless visual and script cliches; a complete inability to soften shadows everywhere (I often thought they used searchlights instead of proper set lighting).
What I did find surprising, seeing them again, was how lightweight the court scenes were. These only take a few minutes in each film and there is none of the cut and thrust of blokes in wigs wearing down a witness until they confess which is the usual courtroom film style. But really the crimes were so inconsequential. One film: 'A woman's privilege' is about a breach of promise (featuring Bernard Archard and Patrick Wymark) another: 'Company of fools' is not much better than a 'Carry on' film.
I think the series was really made for TV rather than the big screen but they slotted into an evening's entertainment easily enough but I wonder if they sometimes shared the bill with real British films of the sixties like: A taste of honey; Alfie; Billy liar; Saturday night and Sunday morning; Room at the top. The tackiness of Merton Park productions would really become apparent.
*Here's a tip: on each film press the fast-forward for about a minute and half to avoid the StudioCanal nonsense logo and an equally dreadful stock intro to each SoJ offering.