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Gentle thrills and suspense.
13 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Doris Cole (Hillary Brooke) is divorcing her husband, Peter (John McNamara), after he terrified her with his sleepwalking in which he came into her room carrying a carving knife. The final decree is due to come through within the next twenty four hours, which will leave Peter free to marry Lucille (Helen Mowery). However, Doris, her attorney, Ralph Duncan (Thomas B. Henry) and Peter's business partner Frank Maddox (John Archer), have hatched the seemingly perfect blackmail plan. Unless Peter allows Maddox to sell him and his stepbrother - business associate Philip Kendall (Harry Hickox) his shares in their business for $500,000, which is ten times more than they are worth, then Doris will not give him a divorce. Peter's niece, Edna Hammer (Nancy Hadley), and her boyfriend Steve Harris (Darryl Hickman) approach Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) and ask him to help Peter defeat the blackmail. But, on the following morning, Kendall is found murdered in his room and Peter is accused of killing him using his sleepwalking as a cover...

All in all, The Case Of The Sleepwalker's Niece, the second episode in season one, is another thoroughly enjoyable entry from the original series about the cases of Erle Stanley Gardner's ace defence attorney Perry Mason, which made Raymond Burr an international star. I grew up with the feature length revival TVM's that Burr made throughout the 1980's-90's and loved them so being able to see some of the episodes from the original 1950's-60's series was a real treat. Considering that they are now sixty years old, they have not dated too badly and remain perfectly watchable to contemporary audiences. I found that they shoehorn a lot of plot into their 50-minute running time and their twists and turns come so quickly that if your attention wanders for even an instant then there is little chance of making much sense of the stories. But, if you really pay attention and can keep up with what is happening then they are fairly satisfying and rewarding for people who enjoy good whodunits. Burr's courtroom scenes with William Talman's prosecutor, Hamilton Burger, are fun since much to his annoyance, Perry, as usual, finds the real killer with his familiar brand of courtroom theatrics. The standard of the acting is good all round, but Barbara Hale's Della Street and William Hopper's private eye, Paul Drake, are given very little to do. The production values are of a high standard and Frank Redman's b/w lighting and Russell Garcia's mood music combine to create a feeling for the mysteriousness augmenting the gentle thrills and suspense. Fred Steiner's Perry Mason theme tune sounds as fresh as ever and the film is most ably directed by William D. Russell.
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Perry Mason: The Case of the Terrified Typist (1958)
Season 1, Episode 38
One of the very best episodes from season one.
12 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A young woman (Joanna Moore) breaks into the offices of the South African Diamond Company, but she is interrupted by the arrival of George Baxter (Jack Raine) who has come to see Walter Lumis (Ben Wright) and Duane Jefferson (Alan Marshal). He suspects that the young woman is an intruder and goes to alert the police. She escapes, however, and goes into the office of the famous defense attorney Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) posing as a temporary typist from the labour exchange. She later quietly slips away and Baxter has reported what he believes to have been an attempted robbery to the police. That night a boatman sees Baxter's body being dumped off of the St Monica Pier and identifies Jefferson as the man he saw do it. He is duly arrested and put on trial for Baxter's murder and the South African Diamond Company, through Walter Lumis, retains Mason to defend him. Jefferson, potentially, has a rock solid alibi as he claims to have spent the entire evening of the murder with a lady friend. But, he refuses to tell Mason whom she is. Could she be the mysterious woman who tried to break into the diamond company's offices then posed as a secretary in Perry's office until the heat died down so she could make good her getaway? Who is she and what was it she was trying to steal from the company? Meanwhile, it is revealed that a shipment of diamonds from South Africa worth $500,000 has gone missing...

One of the very best episodes from season one, which is tautly directed with a strong visual sense by Andrew V. McLaglen who later directed some notable westerns with John Wayne like Chisum and The Undefeated. Like so many of the early Perry Masons, the plot is generally capable of being followed but the twists and turns come thick and fast so you have to be really following it and if you let your attention lapse for even an instant then you'll lose track of everything and it won't make much sense. The courtroom scenes carry a good charge of suspense and the battle between Raymond Burr's Perry Mason and William Talman's district attorney, Hamilton Burger, one of the show's most popular characters, is immensely enjoyable here. It is the one in which Burger actually wins the case and succeeds in getting a guilty verdict for Perry's client. Well, sort of, but there is an incredible final twist which I won't spoil for you but, in the end, both Mason and Burger emerge victorious.
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Enormously enjoyable for fans of this kind of trashy exploitation horror films.
11 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Scotland Yard, led by Superintendent Graham (Geoffrey Keen), is baffled by a series of grisly murders perpetrated by a psychotic killer who uses weapons and methods similar to those on display in their own Black Museum. The truth is that a successful but obsessive crime writer and journalist called Edward Bancroft (Michael Gough) is responsible for the killings. From his own secret museum of various weapons and instruments of torture hidden in the basement of his house, Bancroft hypnotises his young assistant, Rick (Graham Curnow), with the use of drugs to commit the murders in order to provide him with material for his books and newspaper columns...

Pretty gruesome in its day, Horrors Of The Black Museum paved the way for Anglo Amalgamated's other controversial and daring shockers like Peeping Tom and Circus Of Horrors (both 1960). Yes, some of the performances are bad and the dialogue trashy, but it adds to the blackly comic and zestfully gruesome effect that the makers were clearly aiming for. If you like this kind of thing it will add to the enjoyment of seeing it rather than spoiling it. Director Arthur Crabtree, a former cinematographer turned director from Gainsborough Studios, whose last feature film this was before he retired, shows quite a lot of skill in the way in which he combines some high comedy with the more gory elements of the story. There are many shock sequences, most notably a pair of binoculars booby trapped with spikes in the eyepiece, that still retain something of a horrific impact today. But they are skilfully handled so they combine just the right amount of graphic horror so as not to go over the top with unseen terror that puts it into the minds of the audience and is more terrifying as a result of that. There are moments of suspense too like the build up to the shocking finale in the tunnel of love and on a big wheel at a fairground. The film's most funny scene has to be when the cops detain a suspect convinced that they have got their man; only when he starts going on with relish about building a death ray from which no one will be safe they realise that he is a fantasist out for the publicity. Michael Gough enjoys himself in the leading role as the demented Bancroft with a gloriously hammy performance in a role that would have been ideal for Vincent Price. Shirley Ann Field and June Cunningham are wooden, but in a way that suits the mood of the film and adds to the fun and the fact that Geoffrey Keen, John Warwick and the veteran British actor Austin Trevor play it straight as the men from the Yard makes it even more so whilst providing a distinct contrast to them. Technically the film is quite professionally made and Desmond Dickinson's CinemaScope Eastmancolor camerawork is glorious enhancing every frame.
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The Lodger (1944)
Tame compared to subsequent films dealing with the Ripper case, but good period detail and an outstanding performance from Laird Cregar.
10 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Ellen and Robert Burton (Sara Allgood and Cedric Hardwicke) are the guardians of a glamorous singer called Kitty (Merle Oberon) who rent rooms to a mysterious lodger who calls himself Mr Slade (Laird Cregar). He never joins them for breakfast, lunch or supper saying that he works at night. Every night 'The Lodger' goes out into London's fog-shrouded streets carrying a little black bag and in the wee small hours the Burtons can hear him walking about his rooms, which he always keeps locked. When quizzed he tells them that he is working on his "experiments". Meanwhile a series of grisly murders have been taking place in the Whitechapel area of the Capital and his strange nocturnal behaviour leads Scotland Yard, lead by Inspector John Garrick (George Sanders), to supect that he might be Jack The Ripper...

There can be no denying that this Hollywood studio recreation of the fog-shrouded London in which the Ripper crimes took place is very impressive. Augmented by Lucien Ballard's black and white cinematography, director John Brahm succeeds in getting a rich feeling for period detail and a creepy atmosphere. It is more than competently acted by all concerned, but the roles of Sanders and Oberon as the investigating policeman and the music hall performer with whom the former falls in love with seem woefully underwritten. Yet there is one charming and witty scene where Sanders is trying very hard to get a date with Oberon while he is showing her around Scotland Yard's Black Museum and she keeps trying to change the subject by asking him about the various grisly exhibits before finally giving in and agreeing to take tea with him. The acting honours in the film go to the excellent Laird Cregar, who tragically died not long after he appeared in this, perfectly cast as the mysterious lodger giving the role a genuine sense of mystery and evil as the reclusive psychopath who targets female music hall singers to avenge the death of his artist brother several years before. But this is not my favourite film to deal with the Ripper case, not by a long way, since it now it seems rather tame and I enjoyed Marie Belloc Lowndes' source novel, The Lodger, much more since unlike this film it left the question open as to whether or not the title character was actually The Ripper and that added considerably to the suspense aspect which, in consequence, is watered down here somewhat. Worth watching though.
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One of the better and certainly one of the more ambitious Mason revival movies.
5 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Perry Mason is back in court to defend one of his former law students, Jack Barnett (Tim Reid), the husband and manager of temperamental pop singer Terri Knight (Vanessa Williams), whom is accused of murdering her following an argument, which was witnessed by their friends and colleagues. The ace attorney is puzzled because, although everybody appears to have eulogised Terri, she treated all of them badly. They include her ex-husband, Joe Dillon (Kene Holiday), who taught Terri everything she knew about performing and, after she hit the big time, walked out on him and whereas she was earning millions he was stuck singing and playing piano in coffee bars for a meagre $500 per week. Yet, if Jack is convicted of her murder, he will not be legally allowed to inherit his wife's estate, worth $14 million, and under the terms of the will it would then all go to Dillon. Then there is Sean Lassiter (Alan Rachins), the president of Terri's record company whom was afraid that his biggest signing was going to change labels and, on top of that, she had accused him of 'Payola' and that had the potential to ruin him. Finally, there is Terri's closest friend and personal assistant, Becky Dileo (Marilyn Jones), whom is totally convinced of Jack's guilt and was completely loyal to her even though she had hurt her too. All of these people had strong motives for murder, but it is an uphill struggle for Perry to prove that his client didn't do it...

One of the best and certainly one of the more ambitious of the long running series of revival TVM's of Raymond Burr's best-loved series Perry Mason. It is attractively set in the cut throat world of the music business in which the ace defence attorney's case slowly unravels the truth about the rise and fall of a pop idol. It isn't the usual sex and drugs and rock and roll tale this time, but a tragic one that leads to an emotionally satisfying and surprising denouement. Inventively directed by Ron Satlof, who was easily this series' best director and one of the most prolific, who opts to use flashback sequences when the murdered singer's friends and colleagues recall their memories of her set to the pop music specially written by composer Dick de Benedictis for the film. This succeeds in bringing out the emotional element which is fundamental to the story. It is competently acted by the entire cast with Vanessa Williams, Tim Reid and Becky Dileo of particular note among the supporting cast. Burr remains a commanding presence in his courtroom scenes, but Barbara Hale's Della Street gets very little to do. William R Moses' action man part as Ken Malansky is quite good here. In this case he poses as an A&R man in order to befriend a young, ambitious singer called Cathy Redding (Nia Peeples) in order to plug her for information about a songwriter who in reality is a violent armed robber turned killer. Peeples is quite likeable in the part and her scenes with Moses allow for some moments of gentle comedy and moving drama in which the pair fall out after she discovers that he is no A&R man and we as the audience hope that the pair will make things up. There is also a suspense element too in which Malansky has to try and convince her that the guy who claims to be a songwriter is nothing of the kind and a dangerous killer who could, if forced, add her to his list of victims.

All in all, The Case Of The Silenced Singer emerges as one of the best examples of this series that will be entertaining to people who simply enjoy good mysteries as well as fans who never miss an episode.
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A superb addition to an acclaimed series.
4 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A young GP called Dr Percy Trevelyan (Nicholas Clay) seeks the advice of Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) about his benefactor's strange behaviour. He locks himself away in his rooms, never goes out and keeps a loaded pistol beside him at all times. Only a short while ago, this benefactor, Mr Blessington (Patrick Newell), had turned up at the struggling young doctor's surgery out of blue and offered him financial assistance to set up a lucrative practice at a fashionable address in London in return for residence at his house and three-quarters of his income. It seems that Blessington is hiding a guilty secret and is living in fear for his own life. On the following morning, he is found hanging in his bedroom. The police suspect suicide, but Holmes and Dr Watson (David Burke) uncover something far more sinister...

All in all a superb addition to ITV's acclaimed series based upon the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The excellent dramatisation of David Marlowe and the direction by David Carson strike just the right balance between humour, intrigue and the more horrific elements of the story. Jeremy Brett is definitely one of the best actors to have played the famous Baker Street sleuth bringing out the character's intelligence, eccentricities and nuances while David Burke's Dr Watson avoids making the usual mistake of portraying the role as a bumbling buffoon and the on screen chemistry between he and Holmes is a joy to watch. The solution is a satisfying one and like the best suspense films it leaves many questions unanswered at the end leaving the audience to reach its own conclusions about what has occurred. Nicholas Clay is very good in the part as the young doctor as is Patrick Newell as Blessington. Viewers will remember Newell for his part as the espionage boss 'Mother' in the classic 1960's adventure series The Avengers.
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Front rank British TV mystery drama.
3 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) and Dr Watson (David Burke) come to the aid of a young solicitor, John Hector McFarlane (Matthew Solon), whom is accused of murdering a wealthy retired builder called Jonas Oldacre (Jonathan Adams), 'The Norwood Builder' of the title. Inspector Lestrade (Colin Jeavons) thinks he has got his man bang to rights because his walking stick, found at the scene of the crime, was the murder weapon and Oldacre had only recently made him the sole beneficiary of his will. Although the body is completely unrecognisable due to it having been set alight, the police are convinced that it is Oldacre's because the buttons from his trousers match those from one of his suits. In addition, a thumb print in blood matching that of the accused is discovered in the deceased's hall. Yet Holmes is convinced of his innocence and uncovers a dark mystery of impossible love, revenge and deception...

All in all, The Norwood Builder, made as part of ITV's acclaimed series based upon the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is front rank television. Jeremy Brett is certainly a strong contender for the best actor to have ever played Sherlock Holmes. He beautifully portrays his intelligence, eccentricities and nuances and he is ably supported by David Burke as Dr Watson who does not make the usual mistake of portraying the character as a bumbling buffoon. There is stirling support from the supporting cast with Colin Jeavons of particular note as Inspector Lestrade who delights in the fact that he appears to have an open and shut case and thinks he will beat Holmes at his own game. But, when the case is solved, Holmes, to his astonishment, allows him to take full credit for it. "His work has its own reward", Dr Watson tells him. Matthew Solon is very good as the accused man as is Helen Ryan as his distraught mother. Jonathan Adams is very good as Oldacre as is Rosalie Crutchley as his sullen and loyal housekeeper Mrs Lexington.

The dramatisation by Richard Harris is excellent piling on the clues and red herrings and the solution isn't that easily guessable. The film is much enhanced by the series' meticulous eye for period detail and the vigorous direction is by Ken Grieve.
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Another fun addition to this well-loved series.
29 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Jeff Randall and Jeannie Hopkirk (Mike Pratt and Annette Andre) recognise George Roden (Stanley Meadows), a West End gangster, as the killer of a rival villain, Jennings, in a car park outside of a hotel where they had attended a Rotary Club dinner. The body had been dumped inside Jeff's car, and in order to stop them from giving evidence at the trial, George's mother, Mrs Roden (Madge Ryan), has Jeff beaten up and Jeannie kidnapped. In order to try and prevent Jeff from giving evidence against George, the Rodens threaten him with Jeannie's life. So it becomes a race against time to find her before the court returns a verdict of not guilty and George walks away a free man. Even in that eventuality, it is likely that they will have her killed anyway. The trouble is even Jeff's ghostly partner, Marty (Kenneth Cope), cannot find her.

All in all, Could You Recognise That Man Again? is another fun addition to this well-loved series. It strikes the correct balance between straight detective thriller and comedy under the skilled direction of Jeremy Summers. The humour comes from Jeff attending a Rotary Club dinner having been persuaded to go by Jeannie who thinks that he could meet some potentially lucrative clients there. The problem is he has left it until the last minute to hire an evening suit and there is a hilarious scene inside a shop where Jeff argues with the shopkeeper who is unable to find a suit that properly fits him. And Marty is there winding him up with his teasing quips. The suspense aspect is there too with Jeff and Marty's hunt for Jean and the climatic scene at the courtroom where Marty uses his supernatural powers to delay the proceedings giving Jeff time to rescue Jeannie and get to the court before the judge makes his ruling allowing the murderer to go free is effective. It's depiction of London's underworld with gangsters and protection rackets gives it a feeling for realism, which is helped by down-to-earth and honest performances from the cast. Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope are a joy to watch as always while Annette Andre gets more to do here whereas, more often than not, her role was woefully underwritten in other episodes. But the most attractive aspect in this episode has to be the mother figure leading the criminal gang's activities. Madge Ryan is excellent in the role of Mrs Roden portraying her as clever, resourceful and devilishly ruthless. We wonder if it is she who was really the mastermind behind the gang's operations rather than her son even though he was seen as gangster number one by the police.
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Underrated Holmes mystery with an unexpected and satisfying solution.
28 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) is hired by an insurance company to investigate the grisly murders of the wealthy members of 'The Good Comrades' club in an eerie Scottish mansion. Prior to each murder, the victims receive an envelope containing orange pips. The insurance company believes that one of the club members is killing off the others because, only recently, they had all changed their life insurance policies to benefit each other. However, Holmes and Dr Watson (Nigel Bruce) uncover something far more sinister...

Red herrings and clues abound in this underrated entry in the popular series of wartime second features starring Basil Rathbone as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's world famous detective. I was inclined to think that it was one of 'The Good Comrades' who was murdering his fellow members in order to collect all of the insurance money. At least that was what the complicated screenplay by Roy Chanslor was pointing towards and as the number of suspects grew so did the murders. Yet the solution when it came was very satisfying indeed and things did not turn out as I was expecting them to. It is quite a gruesome tale and there is a fine atmosphere for the sinister and the mysterious thanks to Virgil Miller's rather splendid b/w cinematography, which complements the fine art direction of John B. Goodman and Eugene Lourie beautifully. Although it looks as though it was shot entirely in the studio, the Scottish atmosphere and feeling for place is remarkably well conveyed in which the beauty of the west coast of that country hides a sinister secret adding to the overall sense of dread. Director Roy William Neill, who was a real veteran of Hollywood 'B' pictures, does his usual accomplished job and the standard of the acting on the whole is very good all round with Rathbone offering an incisive performance as Holmes whilst Nigel Bruce, whose interpretation of the role of Dr Watson has been criticised for its portrayal of the character as a buffoon over the years, is charming and humouress without being over the top. Of the supporting cast, Paul Cavanagh shines as the suave former Harley Street surgeon as does Aubrey Mather as the laid back and mild mannered Alastair whom finds himself being set up as a fall guy to take the blame for the killings of his friends and fellow club members.
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Routine courtroom thriller with no outstanding merits, for fans of the series only.
26 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Perry Mason is back in court to defend an actress called Roxanne Shields (Amy Steel) whom is accused of killing controversial chat show host Ted Mayne (Geraldo Rivera), her former lover. Mayne had just published his 'kiss and tell' autobiography in which he detailed his numerous affairs with women - many of whom are prominent figures in public life. Perry finds no shortage of suspects whom had a motive other than Roxanne for killing Mayne including Nora Turner (Anjanette Corner), the widow of a respected Congressman, who was planning to stand for election in her late husband's constituency. But the revelations in Mayne's book scuppered any chance of that happening. Nora's devoted teenage daughter, Sandra (Robin Tunney), could have done it since she was furious with Mayne and she lied about her whereabouts on the night of the murder. In addition, there is the fashion photographer Mary Singer (Leslie Wing) who is proving to be a very elusive person since no one in her profession has ever heard of her and she has gone missing. Who is she and why is she and others determined to keep her whereabouts and true identity a secret? And is the chief sponsor of Mayne's show and his latest conquest, Laura Rand (Mary Margaret Humes), as relaxed about being exposed in his book and the fact that he had many other lovers besides her as she appears to be?

Another routine courtroom thriller from the long running series of revival TVM's based upon Raymond Burr's well-loved 1950's-60's series, Perry Mason. There is very little to set it apart from the others and there are not really any outstanding merits to commend it. The way Perry's case unfolds isn't very convincing here since the ace attorney could have easily won a dismissal for his client on the grounds of reasonable doubt. It is revealed early on that Ted Mayne's killer wore a perfume called 'Roxanne' that the accused sponsors as part of her disguise; but overlooked the fact that she could never have worn it because she is badly allergic to any perfumes. You will wonder why it took so long for that to come out because surely anybody standing trial for their life would have brought that up straight away if it was sure to get them acquitted. The courtroom scenes carry very little suspense and Raymond Burr appears to have been simply going through the motions in this one. William R Moses' Ken Malansky gets the best scenes in this film and, as usual, he finds himself reluctantly teamed up with another female sidekick; this time a young TV reporter called Charley Adams (Tracy Nelson). Initially, she irritates Perry and Ken because she is forever pestering them for an interview for her news channel and is planning to run a parallel investigation to that of Mason's with the intention of handing over any evidence she gets to her employers before them. Yet, she becomes friends with Perry and Ken and provides a vital clue that helps win their case and get Roxanne off. This allows for some pleasant light comedy and the mystery and intrigue behind their hunt for the missing fashion photographer is moderately suspenseful. Yet, overall, this one is for fans of the series only. In the acting stakes, Robin Tunney, Anjanette Corner and Mary Margaret Humes offer the best performances.
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Highly satisfying Holmes mystery, quite simply unmissable.
26 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
In the Canadian village of Le Morte Rouge, an aristocrat's wife, Lady Penrose, is discovered dead in the church clutching the bell rope and her throat torn out. Her husband Lord Penrose (Paul Cavanagh) and the superstitious locals believe it to be the act of a legendary monster, which supposedly stalks the marshes and kills the local farmers' livestock by tearing their throats out. Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone), however, believes there to be a more earthly murderer at large and aided by Dr Watson (Nigel Bruce) he sets out to prove it. In addition, the detective believes the weapon used to inflict such a wound upon the victim was a five pronged garden weeder. The pair discover that Lady Penrose used to be a popular stage actress who quit her profession after a member of her touring company killed a fellow actor. In addition, it transpires that the reclusive retired magistrate, Judge Frisson, was the judge who sentenced the actor Alastair Ramson to life imprisonment for that crime and the landlord of the local inn, Emile Journet (Arthur Hohl), was the governor at the jail where Ramson was detained before he attempted to escape and was believed killed in doing so. Two more murders follow, that of Judge Frisson and Journet's young daughter Marie (Kay Harding) and the latter's father goes into hiding leading Holmes to suspect that the psychotic Ramson, a master of disguise, who is living in the village under an assumed identity. But who could he be? The good humoured local postman, Potts (Gerald Hamer), or the boatman Tanner who squats in an abandoned inn on the docks? Both are ordinary respectable people whom no one would suspect for one minute of hiding a sinister secret, but which one? And what is the explanation behind the strange, luminous figure that stalks the marshes at night terrorising the locals?

A highly satisfying entry into the long running and popular series of Sherlock Holmes second features, which were updated to the present day, the Second World War. Basil Rathbone was one of the screen's very best incarnations as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's ace detective and the way in which he does battle with Paul Cavanagh's Lord Penrose in arguing that his wife's death was of a more earthly nature rather than anything supernatural is engaging and pleasing to watch. Although Nigel Bruce plays Dr Watson as a bumbling buffoon, it is in a likeable and amusing way and it does not end up running into caricature; something for which his performance in the role has been attacked for in the past. That goes for saying even though I personally preferred it when other actors such as Andre Morell and Edward Hardwicke played him straight and as a rational and intelligent man of science, which I felt complemented the performances of the best actors who played Holmes even better. The twists and turns in the script play as fair as one could wish with the audience and the killer's identity should be well enough concealed until the end in which Holmes confronts him on the marshes in a tense, edge of seat finale. Although the settings are almost totally studio bound, the feeling for place in rural Canada is very well conveyed thanks to atmospheric b/w cinematography by George Robinson and the art direction of Ralph M. DeLacy and John B Goodman. Roy William Neill, who directed most of the films in this series, does an accomplished job staging some scenes of genuine creepiness such as Holmes's encounter with the mythical, luminous monster on the fog-shrouded marshes at night and there is one exceptionally terrifying murder scene that is guaranteed to make you jump in your seats. Performances are generally good all round and, aside from Rathbone and Bruce, Gerald Hamer is exceptionally good in a triple role demonstrating his considerable range and versatility as an actor.

All in all, The Scarlet Claw is unmissable viewing for fans of Sherlock Holmes and those who simply love rattlingly good detective thrillers alike. The fact that some of the plot is shamelessly borrowed from The Hound Of The Baskervilles does not affect the quality of the work and nor should it ruin one's enjoyment of it.
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A powerful piece of serious film making from Hammer as vital and relevant today as it was then.
19 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
An English family, Peter and Sally Carter (Patrick Allen and Gwen Watford) and their nine-year-old daughter Jean (Janina Faye), emigrate to a small Canadian town where Peter has got the job of principal at the local school. However, their dream of a new life turns into a nightmare when their daughter says that an elderly man made inappropriate advances towards her and her school friend, Lucille (Frances Green). They find the local people close ranks against them when they file a complaint with the police since the man in question, Clarence Olderberry (Felix Aylmer), belongs to the wealthiest and most influential family in the community who opened a salt mill, which created jobs and increased the town's prosperity. Olderberry's son (Bill Nagy) warns the Carters that if they take his father to court, he will use his family's wealth and influence to ensure that their case is thrown out of court. And, sure enough, it is. The jury is stacked and the Defense Council (Niall McGuinness) questions Jean in a bullying and unsympathetic manner in the witness box, which is successful in creating the impression that she is an unreliable witness. Olderberry walks out of court a free man and the Carters announce that they are leaving town. However, Olderberry goes on the warpath again and this time his tendencies become homicidal...

Highly controversial in its day, this Hammer drama deserved a wider audience than it got and it is certainly one of their best films. The subject is treated with absolute sensitivity by the entire cast with Allen and Watford especially good as the horrified and anguished parents. The way in which the community closes ranks against them as they fight for justice for their daughter is well depicted and creates much tension and suspense. The courtroom sequence is particularly harrowing and, although the film was shot at Bray Studios in the English home counties where so many of Hammer's timeless gothic horrors were made, you will be surprised at how successful the film makers were in creating an authentic sense of place and realism for the Canadian setting. This adds to the unsettling atmosphere which is augmented by the b/w cinemascope camerawork of Freddie Francis who shortly after this would go on to win an Oscar for his work on Sons And Lovers (1960). Directed by Cyril Frankel, who is best remembered as the director of such cult TV classics as Randall and Hopkirk Deceased, Department S and The Champions, this ranks among the best work he did for the cinema. He would go on to make one other film for Hammer, the flawed but interesting witchcraft thriller, The Witches (1966), which featured Joan Fontaine's last big screen appearance. While he ensures that the film is entertaining, suspenseful and tense, he also brings out the powerful social message within John Hunter's script about the responsibility we all have in protecting our children and that one's money and influence is no excuse for complacency or exonerates them from the responsibilities they have to society. Niall McGuinness offers a fine performance as the prosecuting attorney, Bill Nagy is noteworthy as the accused man's son and Felix Aylmer, even though he has no dialogue, succeeds in creating a convincing and unnerving performance as the accused man.

All in all, after nearly sixty years since it was first made, this remains a powerful piece of film making that still manages to entertain while at the same time delivering an important social message that is as vital and relevant now as it was then.
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A finely judged mixture of high comedy and straight detective drama.
19 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The ghostly Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope) is disturbed when his friend and partner Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt) can no longer see or hear him. Jeff has been working for the Towler Corporation who employed him to unmask the person who has been leaking confidential information enabling someone to make a killing on the stock exchange by buying large stocks in firms that they were about to invest in. Three of the company's directors are murdered, apparently by Jeff, before Marty discovers that one of the corporation's senior managers, James Laker (Reginald Marsh), is the person behind the leaks and that he had Jeff abducted and replaced by a doppleganger, Hinch (David Dower), who committed the murders for him because they had become suspicious of his activities. However, Laker and this heavies overpower Jeff and Jeannie (Annette Andre) and Marty rouses help through a Harley Street psychiatrist, Sir Oliver Norenton (Clifford Evans), by turning his hypnosis techniques to his advantage, but is it already too late?

When it was first conceived, there was divisions among the series' producers about what direction it should take with some wanting to play it for laughs and others wanting a straightforward detective show in the "Raymond Chandler mould" as its establishing director and creative consultant Cyril Frankel put it. The end result was a 50/50 split with about half of the 26 episodes played for comedy and the rest as more serious down to earth crime dramas. Without a doubt this one is high on the comedy, but it strikes a well judged balance between crime thriller with its plot about industrial espionage and the humour under Jeremy Summers' direction that comes from Kenneth Cope's ghostly Marty and his antics. For instance, in order to try and reach Jeff, or rather the guy masquerading as him only he doesn't know it right away, Marty talks to the psychiatrist's patients under hypnosis asking them to pass on a message to his partner after they have come round. As a result, the psychiatrist Sir Oliver Norenton (played to brilliant comedic effect by the Welsh actor Clifford Evans), starts to think he's going insane when several of his patients leave his sessions early saying they've got an urgent message for Randall. Distressed by it all, Sir Oliver hypnotises himself and keeps saying to himself "Randall is a figment of my imagination" over and over before Marty tells him that Randall is his friend and that he must help him. He gets him to the villains hideout and Marty tells him under hypnosis that he is a secret agent, licenced to kill and in a hilarious sequence the mild mannered psychiatrist kicks down the door and lays out Randall and Jeannie's would be killers. When he is brought out of his trance, he has no idea what he has just done but when he sees the two Randalls together, the double whom is shot dead and the real one he collapses to the floor in despair and disbelief saying "Randall is everywhere! I must see a psychiatrist." Performances from the supporting cast are good all round, but apart from Clifford Evans, no one really stands out. Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope are very funny on screen together as always while Annette Andre's Jeannie gets a little more to do here that makes a change since her part was often woefully underwritten.
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Good solid and reliable entertainment.
14 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Jeff Randall arrives at his flat in the wee small hours after a night out to find an attractive young nun (Juliet Harmer) waiting inside for him. She tells him that the St Ursula's Convent has been robbed by a man called Douglas Kershaw (Jeremy Young), their accountant. She asks Jeff if he will come down to Winchester and collect the papers that they believe will incriminate Kershaw and to try and recover the stolen money. The ghostly Marty Hopkirk accompanies Jeff and immediately suspects that something fishy is afoot. The nun appears at the convent gate, hands Jeff an envelope supposedly containing the tell tale documents and promptly disappears. Marty is convinced that she is a phoney and warns his friend and partner that he has most likely walked into a trap. Jeff starts to think that he could be right and tosses the envelope into the bushes. But, before he can leave he is cornered by a security guard called Edwards (Garfield Morgan) and taken to the main building. Here Jeff discovers that the "convent" is in reality the headquarters of an electronics research firm and its chairman, Philip Yateman (Patrick Barr), accuses him of theft and demands the papers return. Matters are not helped by the fact that Jeff has a card with Kershaw's name and address in his pocket. With Marty's help, he escapes and retrieves the envelope he discarded in the bushes and finds it contains old newsprint. Jeff visits Kershaw and he finds out that he specialises in industrial espionage; the buying and selling of information. He tells him that whoever is stealing secrets from the Winchester electronics company fears detection and is setting Jeff up to be the fall guy. Jeff realises the gravity of the situation he is in and Jeannie (Annette Andre) tips him off that the police are waiting for him at his office. But who is framing him? Edwards or maybe somebody who is much higher up in the company. Jeff and Marty race against the clock to clear his name, but there is danger at every turn.

A good, solid and reliable entry in the classic Randall and Hopkirk series, which plays for the most part as a serious thriller set in the world of industrial espionage. The emotional centre to the show between the ghostly Marty and his widow Jeannie is still there and it is moving while providing some moments of humour as well. In this instance, Jeff's car is in the dock and he asks to borrow Jeannie's car. She says "Of course you can borrow Marty's car", before stopping and suddenly remembering that it is her car now with a tear in her eye. The laughs are provided by Marty's criticisms of his old friend's driving fearing that he'll write the old mini off. In the end, as well as having to find thirty odd quid to get his own car out of the garage, at Marty's behest he now has to take Jeannie's car in for repairs too. Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope were a natural teaming for this series and the chemistry between them was always a joy to watch. As well as their row over the car, Marty is deeply unhappy about Jeff taking his widow with him as a witness to get a confession out of Kershaw to the effect that he had never once stolen or tried to sell him secrets from the Winchester electronics firm. Pratt played the part of the happy go lucky, sometimes easily led and down to earth private eye with consummate ease. When he confronts the real villain who tells him about his scheme to make half-a-million pounds out of the company, he says "You don't look short of a few pounds as it is...(a senior manager's)... pay, the six thousand you got for selling the information to Kershaw, you're doing all right mate". Pratt's delivery of the lines sounds just like what an average Joe in the street would say to someone if they found them self in the situation that Jeff finds himself in. Cope's Marty Hopkirk provided the laughs and, compared with Randall's happy go lucky attitude to life, he was always anxious about everything. Yet, more often than not, he could see when his old friend was being had whereas he could not and often always invariably dug him out of a hole. The climax in which Marty rescues Jeff by visiting a hospital and speaking to the spirit of a man who is close to death on the operating table and getting him to call the police when he comes round delves into the realms of supernatural fantasy. Good suspense here and it also has great charm like when Jeff visits a guy whom he has never seen before in his life and presents him with a thank you gift for saving his life. Of course, the guy in hospital has no idea about what he did; phoning the police and sending them down to Winchester but his surgeon and nurse were totally puzzled as to what happened when he came round. They are even more so when they read the card on the gift, which is addressed as having come from Winchester. The acting from the supporting cast is good all round with Patrick Barr totally convincing as the hard nosed and ruthless company director as is Garfield Morgan as Edwards whose rather mysterious character leads us to think that he could be the arch villain of the piece since it is hard to tell what side of the game he is on. The efficient direction is again by Ray Austin.
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Gideon C.I.D.: The Alibi Man (1965)
Season 1, Episode 15
Another first rate episode finely acted by a cast of familiar faces from British film and TV.
13 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Commander Gideon (John Gregson) of Scotland Yard knows that the famous racing car driver Bruce Carroway (Jack Hedley) and his mechanic Eric Little (James Culliford) killed his business partner Jeff Grant (Geoffrey Palmer) after he found out that Carroway had been cooking the books at their secondhand car business to fund his extravagant lifestyle. Both covered it up to look like an outside job; but proving it is difficult since both men are alibiing each other. Since Little, a former racing car driver himself, is completely loyal to Carroway because he once saved his life at great risk to himself when he pulled him from a blazing car wreck, it seems highly unlikely that he ever will give him away. Carroway has it all, good looks, money and he is a womaniser who is trapped in a loveless marriage to Mary (Sheila Allen). Despite his amiable public face, Carroway is a deeply unpleasant man who is only concerned for himself and even has his adoring mistress, Marjorie Bowman (Jennifer Daniel), killed when it turns out that she could shatter his alibi and give him away. When her body is fished out of the English Channel near Folkestone in Kent, Gideon has enough to prove that it was Little who dumped her from his plane as he was flying it in the vicinity at the time of the murder. But, can Carroway still count on the loyalty of his closest friend?

All in all, The Alibi Man is another first class entry into the excellent Gideon's Way series. It is tautly directed by Cyril Frankel and it benefits from fine acting all round by a cast of familiar faces from British film and TV. Jack Hedley, perhaps giving the best performance of his career here, is particularly good as the villainous racing car driver skilfully bringing out all the nuances of his character. He is outwardly charming to his adoring public but in his private life he is a ruthless, scheming and deeply unpleasant person to whom loyalty means nothing and will do anything to ensure that he is always the one who comes out on top while someone else always takes the rap. James Culliford is also stand out as his devoted mechanic who is so loyal to him that he even confesses to the murder of Carroway's business partner saying "I've never lived up to what Bruce wanted me to be" referring, of course, to the time he had bravely saved his life. But, of course, this means nothing to the man apart from smiling smugly to himself when his back is turned thinking that no one can see because he knows he has just got away with murder. Commander Gideon (played by the perfectly cast John Gregson) knows in his copper's heart of course, but unless Little finally sees sense, he has no way of proving his guilt. We wonder if the determined Scotland Yard man later played a little psychological warfare by collecting evidence to show that Carroway couldn't care less for him and that he is free and enjoying his high life whilst he is languishing behind bars for potentially the rest of his life. We never find out and this provides both the emotional and suspense elements of the story. Jennifer Daniel, who appeared as a leading lady in two of Hammer's classic horror films, The Kiss Of The Vampire and The Reptile, offers a convincing performance as a young, niave and lovesick teenager who is madly in love with her idol that she quarreled and left her parents over it. But, again, when she proves dangerous to him he does not hesitate to kill her too and her death scene where Culliford throws her out of a light aircraft is quite harrowing to watch. Sheila Allen is quite good as Hedley's unhappy wife and the insight we get into it is quite emotionally moving too. The light hearted moment in this one comes from Gideon's home life in which his young son, Malcolm (Giles Watling), happens to be an adoring fan of Carroway and while he is questioning him his father has to get his autograph for him. Yet, Gideon doesn't let on to his kid, but he knows in his heart that his son's hero is a ruthless killer whom he has to nail. Also look out for Geoffrey Palmer of As Time Goes By fame in the cast who appears here as Hedley's ill-fated business partner.
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Gideon C.I.D.: The Reluctant Witness (1966)
Season 1, Episode 24
Excellent, gritty and well made crime drama; essential viewing for all who enjoy top quality television.
12 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Two brothers, Red Carter (Mike Pratt) and Sid (David Gregory), have a profitable and ingenious racket in stolen cars. The cars are stripped of all their identifying marks and write offs of identical models are bought for next to nothing, their chassis numbers and log books used for the stolen vehicles which are then sold at their garage. However, Tiny Bray (Frederick Paisley), a police informer, has clocked what the pair are up to. He also has a personal motive for shopping them, revenge, because the Carter brothers once framed him for a robbery he did not commit and he got sent down for four years. But he is spotted by Sid and as he goes to telephone Commander Gideon (John Gregson) of the Yard he confronts him and works him over. Later at the hospital Tiny dies as a result of his injuries meaning that Sid, if he is caught, will be charged with murder. Gideon has a personal interest in the case since, in his entire career in the police force, Tiny Bray was the only person he had wrongly convicted of a crime. So he is more than determined to bring his murderer to book. And, unfortunately for the Carter brothers, there was a witness who saw Tiny's beating up, a young girl called Rachael Gully (Audrey Nicholson). Her mother implores her to keep her mouth shut because she knows how nasty the Carter brothers can be; but the Yard realises that she must know something since a young PC, John Moss (Trevor Bannister), is friends with her and she had called him at the time of the attack. Gideon faces the challenge of trying to get her to talk but also to protect her from the Carter brothers who are on to her and are determined to silence her.

Excellent, gritty and well made crime drama made as part of the marvellous Gideon's Way series, which was by far one of the best of its kind from that era, the 1960's. The characterisations are well drawn adding considerable depth to what could have been at first glance the kind of mundane crime drama that was typical of British second features. For instance, Rachael Gully, 'The Reluctant Witness', of the title has a terrible home life at the hands of her mother who is only interested in sex, booze and men. She goes out clubbing every night with various men friends leaving her daughter all alone in their modest terraced house. She even forbids her daughter to call her mum when they call wishing to pass her off as her kid sister to try and make out she is younger than she actually is. In addition, Rachael works hard in her mundane job at a florists and most of her earnings go towards supporting her mother's life. However, the prospect of her life changing for the better occurs when the young PC, John Moss, played by a young Trevor Bannister who is best known for appearing in the popular 1970's TV sitcom Are You Being Served, takes a liking to her and vice versa and marriage is soon on the cards. This budding romance is engagingly depicted as it unfolds through her becoming involved in a murder case as a witness in which the young PC gives her protection using his own home as a safe house. We see the extent of just how uncaring and irresponsible her mother (competently played by Patricia Burke) is when she unwisely pays her daughter a visit at Moss's house (with one of the Carter brothers' heavies following her, incidentally, which puts her daughter in grave danger) and does nothing apart from criticise the young policeman's home, his mother and the income they earn as well as asking for alcohol when she was offered a cup of tea. Rachael bursts into tears as a result of her mother humiliating her, but the young PC comforts her and reassures her that he still wants to marry her.

Mike Pratt, who was to become famous for playing the rugged, down-to-earth private eye Jeff Randall in the ITC classic Randall and Hopkirk Deceased, offers a fine performance as the gangster out to free his brother Sid (played well by David Gregory) at whatever cost. The brotherly relationship depicted between the two actors is splendid and is reminiscent of the old American gangster movies. Pratt, as well as being a versatile actor, was also a very talented writer and musician and was once a member of Tommy Steele's rock and roll group The Cavemen. There is a well staged finale in which Red Carter attempts to hijack a prison van and free his brother only Gideon (played brilliantly by John Gregson) has a surprise in store for him.

The very able direction is by Jeremy Summers, who directed many episodes of some of ITC's best-loved shows, doing justice to Harry W Junkin's superb, neatly plotted and well characterised script. The authentic London locations and atmospheric b/w photography (James Allen and Gerald Gibbs) create a strong feeling for place and period. All in all, this is essential viewing for all who enjoy top quality television.
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Gideon C.I.D.: The 'V' Men (1964)
Season 1, Episode 2
Probably not as groundbreaking or hard-hitting as it was in 65, but still top notch TV.
12 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
In the forthcoming British general election, a far-right, fascist party called The Victory Movement led by Sir Arthur Vane (Roland Culver) is fielding candidates against the left-wing ban the bomb Peace Party. The result is violent clashes on the streets of London, which is giving Commander Gideon (John Gregson) of the Yard a headache. But that is only the start of the problems because Sir Arthur has been receiving death threats. And things turn nasty when somebody plants a bomb in his apartment, which explodes and Sir Arthur's deputy leader, Keith Smith (Dervis Ward), takes the full force of the explosion leaving him in a critical condition at the hospital. Commander Gideon takes personal charge of the case from Chief Supt Parsons (Allan Cuthbertson), who not only fails to see eye to eye with him but also dislikes Sir Arthur's politics, after the fascist leader is furious about what he sees as police negligence. At around the time of the explosion, a neighbour of Sir Arthur's, Peter Bennett (Dyson Lovell), a married man with a high profile job, had secretly met his 19-year-old mistress, Cathy Miller (Angela Douglas), in the underground car park who told him that she is pregnant with his child. Since he was seen arriving at the time in his car, the police question him. But since he is frightened that his wife will find out about his affair and of losing his job, he is not exactly truthful about his movements. However, a police constable on patrol in the vicinity at the time saw a girl matching Cathy's description and the police put out radio reports saying that they need her to help with their enquiries. Bennett attempts to persuade her to go back home to Bristol, but she is terrified of her socially conservative and disciplinarian father whom she fears will kick her out if he finds out about her pregnancy. The police finally track her down and the pair are both horrified that they have become involved in an attempted murder investigation. Meanwhile, another attempt is made on Sir Arthur's life in Birmingham after somebody rigged an explosive to the ignition of the car belonging to the Victory Movement's parliamentary candidate there, John Hamilton, whom has been left in a critical condition and rushed into hospital. But who is the would be assassin and what is his motive? Somebody close to Sir Arthur who wants to take over the party? Could it be his clever but rather paranoid and fanatical chief organiser Geoffrey Miles (Keith Baxter) or his opponent, the leader of the Peace Party Leo Samson (Inigo Jackson), with whom there was nearly a violent confrontation at the Town Hall?

Gideon's Way was one of ITC's better TV series of the 60's, which boasted good scripts and, unlike many of its contemporaries, was shot on 35mm film as opposed to videotape and got out of the studios to exploit authentic locations in London's East End. In consequence, it had better production values and has worn a lot better than other cop shows from the period. While this is probably no longer the hard-hitting, groundbreaking stuff it was back in 65 it is still high quality television and hasn't lost its ability to be thought provoking and entertaining.

Angela Douglas and Dyson Lovell provide the all important emotional centre to the story as two people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and unwittingly become witnesses in an attempted murder investigation. Douglas's character is a young, naive and lovesick teenager who falls madly in love with an older man who got her pregnant and neglected to tell her that he was already married. He also has a high powered job which he could lose if it ever came out that he had an affair with a 19-year-old teenager. Throughout he is only concerned for himself and not for Cathy. Douglas's scenes with John Gregson are especially good when he reassures her that her disciplinarian father might not be as harsh on her as she fears he will be. He offers her help in return for helping him get his man - it transpires that she actually saw the bomber re-entering the apartment block on the fatal night. Gregson, who was perfectly cast as the Scotland Yard man, skilfully brings out the human and compassionate side of his character that proves vital to his unmasking this villain and many others throughout his career. There are moments of humour too like when Gideon's young son tells his father that he is standing in a mock election at his school: "I can't remember if I'm a Liberal or a Labour", he says and asks "Is there a difference?" As well as being funny, on a more serious note, that question resonates today in a world since the banking crisis of ten years ago in which people feel disconnected from politics. It is also warning about how when politicians lose touch with people or take their support bases for granted, people sometimes turn to extremes. Gregson's scenes with Allan Cuthbertson are effective too as the two contrasting police officers who clash over their approaches to police work. Chief Supt. Parsons says they are dealing with "beatniks, hoodlums, layabouts and fanatics" whom he'd like to throw in jail. "There's no law against being a fanatic", Gideon says. "Well there ought to be", he replies and Gideon's response to that is "Aren't you becoming a fanatic yourself?", which leaves Parsons speechless and he simply states that he wants to preserve the British free democracy, which he sees as the best in the world.

Roland Culver is also very good as Sir Arthur Vane who is forced to question his political views after the sinister events that have occurred in which two of his most senior political figures are nearly killed saying that "Nothing is worth this tragedy." We wonder if it will make him a better man and see him denounce his extremist views. In addition, Keith Baxter also offers a fine performance as Sir Arthur's bright but fanatical chief organiser who shows the divisions within his party between those who prefer boots and fists and the others who favour a more passive approach to their politics. Without giving it all away, it was those divisions plus personal ambition and delusions of power that set in motion the deadly events that occurred.

Cyril Frankel, a filmmaker of wide experience who made several episodes of some of ITC's best-loved series, directs with aplomb and ensures that justice is done to the excellent script and strong material.
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Another standout episode that perfectly blends its hard boiled thriller elements with high comedy.
8 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Private eye Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt) is approached by a con man called Calvin P Bream (Anton Rodgers) who is pretending to be a New York detective needing a bodyguard. He claims to be in danger because word has got out in London that he is trying to recover negotiable bonds, which were stolen from his client back home in the States. In reality Bream is attempting to double cross a client called Cranley (Anthony Marlowe) and his partner Miklos Corri (Kieron Moore), two big shot gangsters in the Capital's underworld, whom he had promised a non-existent endless supply of bearer bonds. In a vain bid to get them off of his back, he told them that he was only a "middle man" and he is deliberately leading them on to believe that the big boss is Jeff. Jeff puts Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope) on the case because, after all, being a ghost he is the ideal man to shadow a man unseen. Marty discovers that Bream is an alcoholic and, much to his surprise, when he is drunk he can see and hear him. This is how he discovers just how much danger Jeff is in. But, when Bream is sober, he cannot see him nor can he remember ever meeting him when he was under the influence of alcohol. Nevertheless, he does confess to Jeff about how he stupidly tried to con two big shot gangsters and it is a dead certainty that they will find out and kill him. They have already planted a corpse in his hotel room and Jeff is caught and arrested by Inspector Large (Ivor Dean) while attempting to dispose of it. When Bream refuses to back Jeff up, Marty gets him drunk and puts the frighteners on him so he will go to Large and tell all. Large releases Jeff, but says he will press charges against both him and Bream unless he catches the big men behind the bearer bonds scam. The next forty-eight hours will be deadly because Corri and Cranley have hot money that they are desperate to get out of Britain and they see the bonds as the best way of doing it. So just how will Jeff, Marty and Bream turn the tables on the ruthless pair?

Another standout episode featuring an engaging comic guest appearance from Anton Rodgers as the drunken, hapless con man Calvin P Bream. He is especially good in his scenes with Kenneth Cope; another actor who was a natural for comedy but who could also adapt to more serious and dramatic parts when called upon to do so. Here he is hilarious in the way his ghostly Marty Hopkirk character haunts the alcoholic confidence trickster into going to the Yard in order to clear his partner, Jeff, who is realistically played by the late but talented actor, writer and musician Mike Pratt who sadly died young. As a result of Marty's hauntings, Bream's alcoholism is cured and he suddenly becomes a converted tee-total. But, this also provides the suspense aspect in a tense finale in which the villain, Miklos Corri, who is played with an unnerving sense of calm menace by Kieron Moore, takes Jeff prisoner and tries to kill him by putting him in front of a safe chock full of gelignite that's set to explode. Since the only hope Marty has of saving him is Bream, he has to try and get him off the wagon again and that is going to be extremely difficult. The film is tautly directed by Ray Austin, a former stuntman and fight arranger on such TV shows as The Avengers who showed that he was also a very competent director, neatly blends the hard-boiled thriller elements with the high comedy so that one does not threaten to outdo the other.
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My Partner the Ghost: Never Trust a Ghost (1969)
Season 1, Episode 4
A well judged blend of straight cold war espionage drama and comedy.
7 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Wandering the deserted London streets in the wee small hours, Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope) witnesses the murder of a senior civil servant called James Howarth (Peter Vaughan) whom is shot dead inside his own front door by Rawlings (Philip Madoc). Marty informs his partner, Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt), who duly informs the Yard. But when they call at the house, they are answered at the door by Howarth's wife, Karen (Caroline Blakiston), who informs them that her husband is alive and well. Jeff only narrowly avoids being charged for wasting police time and is threatened with legal action by the Howarths. Marty, however, is determined to prove to Jeff that he saw what he saw. So he hangs around the house and he finds out that Howarth and his wife were both murdered by Rawlings and the two people seen by Jeff and Inspector Clayton are impostors, foreign spies. Howarth was in charge of salaries for MI5, which meant that he had access to the names, addresses, status and zones of operation of every secret agent employed in Britain. The phoney Howarth has been secretly photographing this confidential information while posing as the real one at MI5's offices and, once he has the lot, he and his two accomplices will return to their own country who will use it to wreck Britain's inteligence services. Marty discovers that the bodies of the real Howarth and his wife are hidden in the basement. But when he alerts Jeff who reluctantly agrees to break in to the house, the bodies are gone. Again, he only escapes by the skin of his teeth and is forced to use Marty's widow, Jeannie (Annette Andre), as an alibi to prevent his arrest and potentially a long term of imprisonment. Jeff begins to doubt whether Marty, being a ghost, is a reliable witness so he visits an expert in psychic manifestations, Dr Plevitt (Brian Oulton), who tells him that ghosts are prone to hallucinations and therefore unable to tell the truth. "Never trust a ghost", he says, and Jeff seems to believe him. The problem is Marty has just found out that Howarth and his accomplices are planning to kill Jeff before they leave the country taking the names and addresses of all of Britain's spies with them...

All in all, Never Trust A Ghost emerges as a must see entry in this deeply felt fantasy detective series. Tony Williamson's screenplay strikes the correct balance between a straight cold war espionage drama and comedy. For instance, Jeff calls Jeannie in the middle of the night having just fled from the Howarths' house to set up his alibi. She answers the phone half asleep and asks "Do you know what time it is?" and "I'm not even dressed!" when he asks her to get over to his flat immediately. "That's the way I want you", he replies and she asks him if he has been drinking. When he implores her saying that he is in danger of getting sent down for ten years, she does what he asks. At Jeff's flat she climbs into Jeff's bed just before Inspector Clayton arrives to give the impression that they have been together all night thus stating that Jeff could not possibly have broken into the Howarths' home. Clayton is annoyed because he does not like Jeff and has been looking to pin something on him for a long time. Then Marty appears and he's furious because, although he is dead and no longer legally married to Jeannie, he remains possessive and gets jealous if she thinks she is involved with other men. This scene is very funny and so is the chemistry between Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope throughout this episode. The story line also creates opportunities for edge of seat suspense like when the Haworths hold Jeff prisoner in their house and Marty has to try and get help to him before they kill him. Since Dr Plevitt, being a psychic, is the only other person who can see him, he's the best chance. However, the doctor forces him to take numerous tests to prove to him that he doesn't have hallucinations before he will agree to phone Scotland Yard. And, all the while, time is running out fast to apprehend the spies and save Jeff's life. It is well acted by the entire cast with the guest stars Peter Vaughn, Caroline Blakiston and Philip Madoc offering Pratt and Cope solid support as the foreign spies. Donald Morley also provides some laughs as the harassed Scotland Yard man who dislikes Jeff and is furious when he can't make anything stick against him. The solid direction is by Leslie Norman who neatly judges the mixture of serious spy thriller and comedy within the script.
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All in all, a very funny episode with a little thought provoking drama thrown in to please fans.
6 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
When Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt) goes to investigate sinister nocturnal goings on at the cemetery near Marty Hopkirk's grave, he is knocked out by a man wearing 18th-century clothing complete with breeches, stockings and buckled shoes. Both Marty (Kenneth Cope) and Jeannie (Annette Andre) think that Jeff imagined it all; so he visits the funeral parlour run by Dighton (Bernard Kay) who tells him that no work has been scheduled to take place near Marty's grave. But while Jeannie is talking to Dighton, Jeff sees the man again who knocks him out in the graveyard. He regains consciousness and is taken to Mandrake Hall by a man who calls himself Mandrake (George Murcell) and admits to being a charlatan. He is a businessman who made his money out of selling cattle food, but bought the name, title and the mansion since it sounded more distinguished than his own name, Wortlespoon. Mandrake has a 20-year-old son called Harry (Nigel Terry) who is an agoraphobic hippie who lives like a recluse in the basement. Mandrake offers Jeff a fortune to try and help him turn his son into a suitable heir, which he refuses. However, as he is leaving the estate, he recognises the gardener, Harper (Geoffrey Hughes), as his attacker in 18th-century garb. Whilst lying low from the police, Jeff agrees to take up Mandrake's offer and under the cover of darkness he investigates the greenhouse where he finds a secret passage leading up to Harry's room and the cemetery. But, Harry has been abducted and the men in 18th-century costume were clearly designed to scare anybody away who got in the way of the kidnappers' plans. But, who are they? Is it an outside job or was Harry himself somehow involved? Will Mandrake bother to pay the ransom or has he found somebody else to be a more suitable heir?

Although it begins rather eerily with its gentle nod to gothic horror, this episode is played largely for comedic effect. The chemistry between Mike Pratt, Kenneth Cope and Annette Andre is priceless here. Jeff worries Marty and Jeannie because he is totally convinced that he was beaten up by a man in the middle of the night in a cemetery dressed in 18th-century costume. They put it down to hallucinations as a result of the blow to his head. In a hilarious sequence, Jeannie forces him to see a doctor and, because Jeff snaps at his daft questions, the doctor believes him to be violent and a danger to the public. On the pretext of leaving the room to get a nurse to dress his head wound, the doctor is actually on the phone for an ambulance, two strong men and a straitjacket. Jeff is informed by the ghostly Marty who was listening in and, in horror, Jeff jumps out of the window screaming "I'm off!" Jeannie, of course, is hysterical as she cannot understand how Jeff could possibly have known that. George Murcell is quite good as the eccentric Mandrake with the troubled son whom he wants Jeff to turn into the ideal son and heir. This provides the more serious and thought provoking aspect to the story. Mandrake is a man with everything money can buy: a title, family estate, name and, in his own words, "even the lavender scented love letters tied up in ribbon". But, he is to discover that there are certain things that all the money in the world just cannot buy; being able to turn his son into the perfect heir who will "refound the Mandrake dynasty", which is phoney anyhow for one. After the son rebels against his father, he gives up on the idea and marries his glamouress housekeeper, Martha (Patricia Haines), who plans to give him lots of children. Meanwhile, unknown to everyone, things turn out right for Harry too in a touching and amusing climax. In addition, Cope gets to do some more amusing comedy where Marty goes to watch a football match and, using his ghostly powers, helps England win by blowing the ball so they'd score that vital goal. For this sequence stock footage of the 1966 England vs West Germany World Cup Final was used.

All in all, a very funny episode with a little thought provoking drama thrown in that should please fans of the series.
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Despite being acted by a largely unfamiliar cast, overall it emerges as an efficient and enjoyable crime short.
6 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Inspector Parry (Frank Leighton) of the Yard is called to a lodging house in London's docklands where a young woman called Hazel Sutton (Ann Doran) has been murdered, stabbed to death. The prime suspect is an illegal immigrant called Slavik (Theodore Wilhelm) whom the landlady, Mrs Fenton (May Hallett), saw leaning over the body before running away. In addition, the murder weapon is identified as belonging to him. Inspector Parry and his Detective-Sergeant discover that Slavik has gone missing; but his landlady says that she does not believe him capable of murder since she knows him to be a quiet and well mannered man. He is finally found and arrested; but he tells the inspector that he got an anonymous phone call from a woman telling him that Hazel was in danger. It transpires that they were engaged to be married. So he went to her lodgings, found her dead and Mrs Fenton came in to find him beside the body and, assuming him to be the killer, started screaming "Help, murder!" so he fled. He also says that Hazel kept their life savings under the floorboards in her room. Inspector Parry begins to suspect that Slavik might have been framed; so he returns to the lodging house and finds the money to be missing. He questions Mrs Fenton again and finds that she bought an expensive fur coat just after the murder. Where did she get the money to pay for it? A vital lead presents itself after two men are arrested for a violent robbery on a newsagent in which the shopkeeper was fatally wounded and later died as a result of his injuries. In a state of panic, fearing the gallows, one of the robbers, Smith, gives away his accomplice who turns out to be Mrs Fenton's son, Bill (Tom Clegg). Was he at the lodging house on the night of the murder? How well did he know Hazel Sutton? And who was the unknown woman who lured Slavik to the scene of the crime?

All in all, The Stateless Man measures up to be an efficient and enjoyable crime short from the long running Scotland Yard series of cinema supporting features. It is acted by a cast whom, with the possible exception of Tom Clegg, will most probably be unrecognisable to today's audiences. Most of them offer serviceable performances but do not exactly set the screen alight. Whilst we can sympathise with the plight of the illegal immigrant whom is cruelly framed for murder, Theodore Wilhelm's performance isn't quite sufficient to convey all that much in the way of emotion. The most enjoyable aspect about this one is the gritty, realistic settings of Harold Watson - the cheap lodging houses, seedy backstreet clubs and the docklands area of the Capital around Wapping from where the action unfolds, which gives the film a genuine sense of realism and a strong feeling for place. This is much augmented by the superb semi-documentary styled black and white camerawork of A.T Dinsdale and John Reid. Directed at a fair lick by the talented Paul Dickson, a.k.a Paul Gherzo, and sharply edited by Ernest Hilton, the solution to the case is reasonably satisfying and the identity of the killer will not be who you are expecting it to be.
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Hugely enjoyable with a cast of many familiar faces from British film and TV.
5 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Private inquiry agent Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt) is hired by the attractive Julia Fenwick (Anne De Vigier) to investigate the disappearance of her wealthy widowed aunt Anne Fenwick (Frances Bennett). However, Julia is killed, apparently by a drunk driver in a hit and run accident before his investigation has progressed very far. His inquiries lead him to a medium called Madame Hanska (Doris Hare) whose meetings the missing woman had regularly attended. Despite his ghostly partner, Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope), objecting to his widow Jeannie (Annette Andre) being used as an undercover agent, Jeff nevertheless succeeds in getting her to go to a seance under an assumed name and to ask to be contacted with her fictitious dead husband John. Madame Hanska is unable to make contact but, after the meeting, she is taken out to tea by one of the attendees, a Mr Elliot (Norman Bird). It becomes clear that this seemingly kind gentleman is plugging her for information and, according to Jeff's plan; she feeds him with false details about her fictitious late husband. Marty is able to shadow Elliot without being seen and he overhears him brief the medium about John. As Jeff and Marty expected, Madame Hanska makes contact with him at the next seance telling Jean that he wants her to contact his old friend, the financial advisor Arthur De Crecy (Michael Goodliffe), because he is worried about her finances. It becomes clear that he, Madame Hanska and Elliot are running a callous scheme to con lonely, wealthy widows out of their money before murdering them. In order to scare the medium into making a confession, Marty materialises at her next seance. She is both shocked and delighted because she has always seen herself as a charlatan and after many years she now finds that she has actually succeeded in contacting a real spirit. Marty learns that Anne Fenwick was murdered in a lonely country cottage in a locked airtight room rigged to fill with gas. Meanwhile, Jeff is in danger of falling victim to the same "sweet little room", but can Marty save him?

A hugely enjoyable episode with an engaging plot and a cast of many familiar faces from British film and television, including Doris Hare who will forever be remembered for playing Reg Varney's mother in the popular sitcom of the era On The Buses. It is refreshing to see her in a dramatic role playing a phony medium, which she does for tongue-in-cheek effect. Michael Goodliffe, who will be recognisable to many fans of 1950's-60's British cinema, is good value skilfully portraying the slimy bogus charm as the killer conman financial advisor. In the best suspense film tradition, we never find out just how many victims met their end in the "sweet little room" of the title and are buried in the back garden of his charming country cottage that has harboured a sinister secret for goodness knows how long. The chemistry and comic interplay between Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope is still there and is, as always, fun to watch. In this instance, Marty is thrilled to bits with a new trick he has mastered, being able to rattle glasses with vibrations. "Fascinating! I'm sure we'll find a use for it", Jeff says sarcastically dismissing it as meaningless. Yet, in an explosive climax, it saves his life when he uses it to shatter a lit oil lamp, causing an explosion to save him from Goodliffe's murder room and being killed by the gas. The scenes where Marty argues with Jeff about persuading Jeannie to go undercover at the seance is funny too. The vigorous direction is by Roy Ward Baker who was a real veteran of British film and television.
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Neat, compact and fun crime featurette.
5 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
*Caution - Very large spoilers contained in the plot synopsis.

Supt Duggan (Russell Napier) of the Yard is called to a rock quarry in the picturesque South Downs village of Hillfield where the works foreman, the polish immigrant Josef Cusick, has been killed in what appears to have been an accident with explosives whilst he was blasting. However, the Home Office pathologist (Lloyd Lamble) carries out an autopsy and finds that he had been drugged, which means it is now a murder investigation. Initially, the second foreman at the quarry, Fenton (Mark Bellamy), is the chief suspect, but Duggan is soon called to the headquarters of MI5 where he is told that Cusick was wanted as a spy working for the Iron Curtain. The plot thickens when an American businessman called Viner (Bill Nagy) is reported missing from his London hotel - and guess what? - Viner is a neutralised American citizen, originally from Poland, and he had escaped from Poland with Cusick. A national manhunt is initiated for Viner and his car is spotted by police in the Sussex countryside, abandoned. A set of fingerprints found in it are not his, however, and are identified as Cusick's. Supt. Duggan realises that Cusick must have rebelled against his own country and Viner, a fellow spy, came to Britain on orders to kill him. But, Cusick had been too quick for Viner, killed him and dressed him in his own clothes before setting off the explosion in the quarry, which made the body unrecognisable so that the police would assume that it was he who had died. Cusick's devoted wife (Marianne Stone) is picked up at Amberley railway station, but it is too late because Cusick has escaped in an aeroplane at a nearby airfield. However, the plane ran out of fuel and came down in the sea and, as for Cusick, he was picked up by a Polish freighter bound for his native country and was never seen again...

This neat, compact and fun crime featurette, made as part of the Scotland Yard series, received glowing reviews on its original release like so many of the others did. It is notable because it features Marianne Stone, a well-known British character actress who often played working class roles such as barmaids, landladies and secretaries in scores of films and was a mainstay of the Carry On series, in a rare leading role as the devoted wife of an Eastern spy who rebelled against his government and, in consequence, was wanted by MI5 in spite of that and marked for death by his own government. In other words he was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. She plays her part really well providing the emotional element to the story and invoking a real depth of feeling. For a film of its minute size, it manages to make an impact upon the audience; its twists and turns play fair with the audience and the denouement will come as quite unexpected to the audience. The film's rural location is used to great effect and the atmospheric b/w lighting of Philip Grindrod and Arthur Lavis (two very fine cameramen) ensures that the tranquil beauty of the place serves to heighten the atmosphere of the mysteriousness. The very able direction is again by Montgomery Tully.
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My Partner the Ghost: Vendetta for a Dead Man (1969)
Season 1, Episode 24
Not top notch Randall and Hopkirk, but still great fun.
1 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
One year after being put behind bars by Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope), the dangerous criminal Eric Jansen (George Sewell) goes over the wall to get even with him. But when he discovers that Marty has since passed away, he turns his attentions to his widow Jeannie (Annette Andre) instead. Jeff (Mike Pratt) and Marty do all they can to find Jansen before he catches up with her, but all lines of enquiry draw a blank. However, they do discover that Jeannie's new boyfriend, the wealthy businessman Emil Cavallo-Smith (Barrie Ingham) is already married and wonder if he might be working for Eric Jansen. But, the criminal lunatic takes Cavallo-Smith prisoner and forces him to make a phone call luring Jeannie to his flat above the cold storage plant he owns. Jeannie gives her police escort the slip and finds herself alone with the madman who takes her to the cliff top where her husband cornered him exactly a year ago planning to send her to her death by pushing her off the cliff edge. Jeff and Marty arrive at the cold storage plant to find that Jansen has put Cavallo-Smith into one of the refrigerators and is close to death. But, Marty is able to communicate with his spirit and gets him to reveal where Jansen has taken Jeannie. But, is it already too late?

All in all, Vendetta For A Dead Man may not be top notch Randall And Hopkirk but it is still a lot of fun. George Sewell stands out as the psychotic Jansen making him believable and Timothy West puts in appearance as one of his heavies. There is an amusing fight between the latter and Jeff in his rickety little office, which literally falls apart as a result of it. Annette Andre's Jeannie gets more to do in this one, but her role is upstaged by the comedy element provided by Kenneth Cope as her husband who is jealous that his widow is contemplating getting married again. "It's bigamy!", he shrieks forgetting that he is dead and therefore it cannot be because they are no longer married in the eyes of the law. In addition, the great on screen chemistry between Pratt and Cope is still there. Barrie Ingham is quite good as the smooth businessman with a roving eye, Cavallo-Smith, who we later discover is already married and was simply leading Jeannie on into thinking that he was about to propose marriage to her. And, in a reasonably suspenseful climax at the cold storage plant, he refuses to tell Jeff and Marty where Jansen has taken Jeannie concerned only about his "position". He refers to her as just "some girl" after he had lead her on the way he did and is ready to concede that she must already be dead. Furious, the pair throw him back into the fridge and wait for the exact moment where he will be near death so that Marty can have a man to man talk with him. And it is only through fear of losing his own life that he finally tells Marty where Jansen is. Cyril Frankel does his usual proficient directing job and stages one or two suspenseful moments such as Jeannie's narrow escape with Jansen in a hall of mirrors at a fairground and the cliff top finale is reasonably tense despite it obviously being a studio set intercut with stock footage of the sea battering the cliffs.
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One of the very best episodes from this well-loved series.
31 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A night out at the theatre turns to tragedy for Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt) and Jean Hopkirk (Annette Andre) when one half of a mind reading act is shot and killed on stage in front of hundreds of people. The victim is Fernandez (Tony Thawnton) and his assistant, Abel (David Jason), is arrested for his murder. It happened during a trick in which Abel had asked a woman in the audience to load a blank cartridge into a revolver. Abel then pointed the gun at Fernandez who had to say from which chamber the weapon would be fired before he pulled the trigger; but the blank cartridge had been switched for a live one. In his dying words Fernandez said to Jeff :"He said he would kill me". Although Inspector Nelson (Michael Griffiths) is totally convinced of Abel's guilt, Jeff is not and with the aid of his ghostly partner, Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope), sets out to find the real killer. But who was the "he" who had threatened Fernandez's life? And the woman in the audience who loaded the revolver has vanished; who was she and did she switch the cartridges? If not, then who did? To be able to investigate the members of touring company, Jeff gets a job at the theatre as a mind reader with Marty as his invisible assistant. He finds out that the star of the show, the singer Gloria Marsh (Grazina Frame), used to be married to the murdered man. In addition, some years ago, Fernandez had been cleared of blame in a road accident in which a car he was driving hit and killed a man. The mystery woman is still stalking the theatre; Jeff is attacked and two more murders, including that of Gloria, follow before Jeff and Inspector Nelson unmask the killer by re-staging the last act of Fernandez and Abel in the auditorium of the Palace Theatre...

One of the very best episodes from the well-loved Randall and Hopkirk series, which has a great plot involving blackmail and forbidden love in the world of the variety theatre. One of the highlights is without doubt Jeff and Marty's mind reading act, which is hilarious to watch and the winning chemistry between Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope works a treat here. You will doubtlessly ask yourself why on earth Jeff did not jack in his unprofitable private detective agency when surely this was a no brainer: he would have made a fortune out of this mind reading lark with Marty's help! The same is also true of the episode in which Jeff was forced into a poker game by West End gangsters that was fixed for him to lose, only the invisible Marty was there and he literally cleaned up at the poker table.

Cleverly directed by Paul Dickson, a neglected talent, who skilfully blends the comedic aspects of this story with some high tension; the murder scenes are particularly effective and given the fact that they happen within the confines of a theatre (The Palace in Watford) there is a genuine sense of claustrophobia that heightens the suspense. There is also a reference to 'The Ventriloquist's Dummy' part of Dead Of Night (1945) where Jeff encounters a ventriloquist who literally lets his dummy take him over. "If they don't like the acts here, they shoot them" and before it can utter any more he puts his hands over its mouth as if to silence it, which startles the private eye.

Aside from Pratt and Cope who are always a joy to watch, performances are good all round from the supporting cast which includes a number of familiar faces like David Jason (Only Fools And Horses, A Touch Of Frost) in an early role, Patrick Holt, a former leading man from 1940's British cinema, who offers a good down to earth portrayal as a Fleet Street newspaper man and school friend of Jeff's. Also look out for Valerie Leon and Are You Being Served's Arthur Brough.
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