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The Mail Van Murder

Familaiar B Movie fare
A familiar tale of a robbery, a violent crime group and a sultry blonde.

The Case of 'The Smiling Widow'

Tully and Napier combine in this thriller
Two stalwarts of the SCOTLAND YARD series, Montgomery Tully and Russell Napier, combine in this tale of a suicide victim who isn't quite what it seems.

Inside Information

High Jinks at Bonfire Night
Starring the ever-reliable Ronald Adam as the police inspector, this piece is set on November 5th, when it is discovered that the guy on the bonfire is a real person. plenty of opportunity for spectacular sequences involving fire, as well as a warning that celebrations of all kinds are subject to abuse.

Bullet from the Past

Thriller Showing the pervasive Influence of the Past
One aspect that distinguished the SCOTLAND YARD thrillers was the seemingly endless focus on the past and how it influenced the present. in this episode a detective (Ballard Berkeley] solved a 27-year-old murder, which gives a good excuse for the thriller to most so out London's less-than-salubrious areas in search of clues. Berkeley gives a strong performance completely different from his most famous role as the Major in FAWLTY TOWERS.

Person Unknown

The Template for all B-Movies
This movie provides a good template for the B-Movie, including Russell Napier as Sgt. Duggan, a short explications passage outlining the situation, several scenes where the detectives are shown investigation, a brief violent movement followed by Duggan's re-emphasis on the importance of observing the law. Not exactly distinguished, but watchable enough.

Destination Death

WAnother 'Ambitious Entry in the SCOTLAND YARD canon
With the help of imagination and the use of stock footage, we are once again transported to Tokyo. Forget about the dodgy accents, and enjoy the way a Poverty Row studio entertains us for thirty minutes.

The Case of the River Morgue

Echoes of The Third Man
A simple tale of whether body is dead or not, and the London sewers is here given an artistic twist, with some of the shots in the dark having a distinct echo of THE THIRD MAN. It's nice to see this twist, reminding us that B Pictures often have distinguished antecedents, if we are prepared to look for them.

The Wall of Death

Ghoulish Entry in the Scotland Yard Canon
Why is it that SCOTLAND YARD episodes filmed out of London tend to be blood thirstier than those filmed in London? This one centres on unexplained deaths in the Wall of Death, that fairground attraction involving cars going into darkness that scares me to death. This episode interestingly revolves round class distinction, between the largely bourgeois visitors and the working class fairground workers, where the source of conflict starts.

Murder Anonymous

A True Case Based on Fact
This episode reminds us that all the cases in SCOTLAND YARD are based on fact. This one has a real judge talking with Edgar Lustgarten on the ethics of the case, and explaining the mechanics of judgement. The case itself is a classic example of identity theft.

The Mysterious Bullet

A Scotland Yard thriller where the focus is not on the Inspector
I like the Scotland Yard series. The center of attention is so much on the mechanics of the case that audiences simply don't have time to get bored. THE MYSTERIOUS BULLET is a good example, with director Paul Gheerzo (aka Paul Dickson) spending so much time focusing on the work of the ballistics expert that he scarcely has time to roll up the plot. That doesn't really matter, as the plot is a bit cliched at the best of times.

The Stateless Man

Interesting Tale about Immigration
This is an interesting tale, released at a time when immigration was on the agenda as never before. The action takes place in and around Heathrow, as well as in the seamier suburbs of London, and involved a young blonde murdered, with suspicion descending on her landlady's son (the 'stateless man' of the title.)

Night Plane to Amsterdam

Glimpse of the mid-50s London underworld
Sometimes these quota quickies give a unique insight into a vanished world before Londoin went global: a rather archaic world of clearly delineated class divisions where the crooks reported to the boss, who spent most of his life in the most fashionable Mayfair parties. The huge cars - Bentleys and Rovers - contributed to this atmosphere. The plot of this episode involves much stock footage, but director Ken Hughes livens it up with an astutely filmed car chase.

Passenger to Tokyo

Interesting Example of a British Quota Quickie
This is a good example of an ingenious combination of studio settings and stock footage to simulate a flight to Tokyo. The story focuses on mysterious cargo, but the real interest lies in how director Ken Hughes sustains interest through astute camera work as well as careful placement of actors in groups.

The Silent Witness

A reliable director responsible for a strong plot
The director here is Montgomery Tully, another responsible for several episodes in the SCOTLAND YARD series. This one focuses on a self-acknowledged killer who almost gets away with it in a daring bid for freedom. One of the serries' best aspects emerges here; in an apparently safe world, the directors sre not afraid to show the perpetual presence of violent.crime.

The Strange Case of Blondie

Gender-Bending Thriller
One of the more interesting entries in the SCOTLAND YARD canon, where the villain turns out to be a gender-bending performer. Director Ken Hughes unearths another seamier side of Mid-Fifties British culture set in the world of the theatre: not the respectable world of pantomime and plays, but the seamier world of revue, just one or two points up fron the Windmill Theatre.

Fatal Journey

Marital thriller of presumed infidelity
Gordon Bell (1910-1998) was one of those British characters who had small roles in big films and big roles in small films. Here he plays an inspector working on a case of dead woman discovered by her husband. Thw story is a slight one, but the episode manages to convey the series' messages on the importance of fidelity and truth in marriage as the basis of social cohesion.

The Dark Stairway

Thriller with B Movie stalwarts
One of the things about Merton Park's series was the amount of employment given to leading actors. The main example was Russell Napier as Chief Inspector Duggan, and Vincent Ball as a series of villains. This episode had no Napier, but Ball makes a convincingly tooth-clenching villain, even if he does not have much to do.

The Deep Blue Sea

Tremendous Performance by the Leading Actress
Anyone expecting an aristocratic performance by Vivien Leigh is doomed to disappointment. Clad in a drab series of blouses and slacks, she makes Hester Collier a self-interested neurotic perpetually needing succour from anyone willing to listen. Her main problem is a lack of self-reliance, as the Doctor (Eric Portman) informs her. The men in her life are self-interested in their different ways, and have no emotional capacity to empathise with her. The only person who understands anything is her landlady (Dandy Nichols).

Director Anatole Litvak opens the play to include multiple views of the seedier parts of London, where Hester (Leigh) has voluntarily ended up. The sera is hard and tough - not the place for a shrinking violet trying to assert her authority yet failing.

The Blazing Caravan

Taut Little Thriller
Most noticeable for being set in an outer London caravan park. Ken Hughes directs once more, and Alexander Gauge makes a portly if fleshy villain.

Performance: The Deep Blue Sea
Episode 3, Season 4

Hard Edged Version of Rattigan
Compared to the Vivien Leigh version of the classic, this has a steely. edge. Penelope Wilton is a hard-nosed wheeler dealer who wants the best for herself and will be prepared to fight for it. She receives her ex-husband politely enough, but turns down his offer of reconciliation flat, in full knowledge that it will not work. In the end she understands her alliance with Freddle will not work either: Freddie is too self-centred, despite being a good physical lover. Left on her own, Wilton goes through the complicated task of filling Freddie's suitcase, prior to leaving it for him to pick up at Charing Cross.

Kenneth Williams: Fantabulosa!

Rather a Self-Adoring Piece
Based on material appearing in the KENNETH WILLIAMD DIARIES, FANTABULOSA! offsets Michael Sheen the opportunity to give a campy performance of the kind Williams would use if he were entertaining people. We learned little about the private Williams, his feelings of professional ffruistration and pdrsinal heartache that prevented him from findsing a suitable life-partner or a suitable outlet for his talents. Let's face it: Williams did not have the emotional stomach to try something innovative, preferring to stick with the CARRY ON films until well after their sell-by date. Sheen stresses the performative side of the character, fond of gazing at himself in the mirror and preening himself. Yet there were certain questions left unanswered: why, for instance, did Tony Hancock dispense with his services in the late Fifties? Was Williams as inept as the senior comedian claimed, or did he represent a genuine threat to Hancock"s reputation? If Williams was as difficult as many people claimed, how could he have served so long as a member of their CARRY ON stay, not to mention ROUND THE HORNE? And why did he runs away from a professional soul-mated such as Joe Orton?

These questions probably wouldn't get answered ;n a b\opic of this nature, but they might have helped to divert attention away from Sheen's overtly showy performance.

Spare the Rod

Tough, No-Nonsense Thriller
Max Bygraves did not enter movies that often. In CHARLIE MOON (1956) he had a role as a young lover with a hit song. SPARE THE ROD was very different. Directed by Leslie Norman, who was a grid workmanlike director, Bygraves plays an orphan boy made good as he takes up the role of a supply teacher at one of London's toughest schools. The temptation might have been to sentimentalise the material, but to his credit Norman suggests that friendships are few and far between in this discipline-dominated institution, presided over by a head teacher (Donald Pleasance) with a fondness fir a big stick and tyrannical rule. His sidekick (Geoffrey Keen) is a teacher of the old school, where the cane does most of the talking. Bygraves enters a knife-edge atmosphere, where learner rebellion is perpetually imminent, and semi-succeeds at his job by listening to the learners and taking their ambitions in mind. Needless to say, he doesn't succeed where others have failed, his over-zealous temper getting the better of him in the end when he attempts to defend a learner against an unwarranted beating from a teacher. At the end it is left undecided whether he will stay or not, but he remains popular by combining strictness with understanding. The film Has its share of educational cinematic cliches, but remains refreshingly


One of Dame Anna's Best
One always feels a sense of.duty while watching an Anna Neagle film. She tackles important subjects, as well as doing musicals with Errol Flynn, but she always plays the same role - la Neagle. Here she is a Resistance heroine based on a real figure, but one can't help feeling that Virginia McKenna did the role far better in 1957's CARVE HER NAME WITH PRIDE. Nonetheless this film has its moments, and passes away a wet afternoon agreeably enough.

Endeavour: Cartouche
Episode 2, Season 5

I have to say I did not understand this episode at all. The plot had too many twists and turns, while the 60s setting did not convince in the least. This was Sunday night candy floss for the easily pleased, not worth anything else otherwise.

Marriage of Convenience

What did 'Arold Do Before Steptoe?
He played a Scottish detective with a determination Toni succeed. Some interesting location photography plus a flashy style adumbrating his later work by director Clive Donner make this an interesting watch.

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