UK / 55 minutes / bw / Major, Rank Dir: Peter Graham Scott Pr: John Temple-Smith Scr: Kenneth Hayles Cine: Brendan J. Stafford Cast: Dermot Walsh, Rona Anderson, Ronald Howard, Sam Kydd, Howard Lang, Edwin Richfield, Arnold Diamond, Trevor Reid, Richard Shaw, Tommy Clegg, Jessica Cairns, Frank Hawkins, Jack Taylor, Angela Krefeld.
A modest piece of UK noir with a convoluted plot that seems to make reasonable sense at the time but becomes harder to follow the more you think about it later.
At the Rex Hotel in London, a valise that was being carried by Helen Grant (Anderson) is accidentally put into the taxi that’s going to take Pan–Atlantic Insurance special investigator Steve Curry (Walsh) to the airport for his New York flight. Steve doesn’t discover the error until he’s at the airport; luckily Tim Bowers (Kydd), whom he’s recently helped out of a jam, came along to see him off, so can take the case back into town and try to track down the woman who lost it. In so doing, Tim finds the case is full of cash: £8,000, in fact—a very great deal, in 1956.
At the airport, Steve is abducted by some thugs, who attempt to beat out of him the location of the valise. He escapes, makes it back to Tim’s apartment, and learns the truth. The inside lid of the case bears a label with the name and address of one Robert Grant. Steve goes there and recognizes the pretty girl he saw at the Rex. Her brother Robert (Howard) is a dealer in furs, and the £8,000 was a cash payment for some Persian lambskins he’s bought and about whose provenance he’s doing his best to stay ignorant.
The skins prove to have been smuggled into the country by the burly seaman Greeko (Lang), skipper of the San Maria, in a deal organized by professional crook Jack Zacki (Diamond). Zacki has recently been jailed for receivership, but now he breaks out to try to get his hands on the money, or the skins, or anything. Greeko has the same idea, while Robert is only too willing to trade his now recovered money for the skins because he has lined up a nice deal for them with a Portuguese customer, Moreira. But then Moreira cables to inform Robert that the sample he sent is infected with anthrax—which means the skins are not only valueless but must be destroyed as a matter of urgency . . .
Siblings Robert Grant (Ronald Howard, playing against type) and Helen Grant (Rona Anderson) meet insurance investigator Steve Curry (Dermot Walsh).
Heading the search for the escaped Zacki are Inspector Ryan (Hawkins) of the Yard and his trusty sergeant, Peters (Taylor). Obviously they soon get mixed up also in the affair of the anthrax-laden lambskins. Complicating matters are Zacki’s loyal thugs Joe (Shaw) and Teacher (Richfield); the latter is a creation of some minor interest, being not the usual brainless plug-ugly or twisted psycho but more like something out of Margery Allingham, an articulate, apparently studious type who can often be seen with a book in his hand.
Steve consults underworld contacts at a street market while searching for bad guys.
Greeko too is slightly more than two-dimensional. While some of the other characters are apparently prepared to risk an epidemic so long as they make a mountain of dough out of the enterprise, Greeko, seemingly the most thuggish, is well aware that the skins must be destroyed; so long as he gets back the money he’s owed, he’ll forgo the greater riches. Also of interest is seeing Howard, who made a career out of playing fundamentally decent chaps in movies like this, here representing a weak-willed, unprincipled cad. A nicely mannered, plummily accented cad—for how could someone played by Howard be anything else?—but a cad all the same.
Helen (Rona Anderson) and Steve (Dermot Walsh) look down on the vanquished Greeko.
Kydd is topnotch as always, but the rest of the main players are alas too bland to linger long in the memory: Walsh is handsome, Anderson is pretty, and that’s really all you need to know. (It’s no real surprise that one video issue should show on its cover not the two principals but Sam Kydd and Jessica Cairns, who has a bit part as Tim’s main squeeze.) Moreover, Walsh and Anderson are entangled in a story that seems to have one or two more plot points than ought to be there. For example, after Helen has lost the case with the £8,000 she’s approached in the street by someone we soon learn is the crook Teacher; he asks her to come with him . . . and we never discover what happens thereafter because, next time we see her, it’s the following morning and the incident with Teacher isn’t mentioned. Rather more troublesome is that, when the true rat of the piece is revealed toward the end of the movie, many of his previous actions promptly no longer make sense.
There’s the occasional howler, too. When Steve persuades Robert to consult a boffin (uncredited) about the dangers of anthrax, there’s this entrancing exchange of dialogue:
Robert: “But surely nowadays it can be countered with antibiotics.”
Boffin: “Yes, but it has to be caught in time.”
Since anthrax is a virus, antibiotics would be completely . . . but you’ve got there ahead of me, haven’t you?
For all that (and more besides), this is an entertaining example of the UK noirish filler of the day, and it’s very nicely filmed by Brendan Stafford, with lots of moody shots of the London docks at dawn or dusk.
A car chase through the gloom in London’s seedy dockland.