A Woman of Mystery (1958)

UK / 70 minutes / bw / Danziger, UA Dir: Ernest Morris Pr: Edward J. Danziger, Harry Lee Danziger Scr: Brian Clemens, Eldon Howard Cine: Jimmy Wilson Cast: Dermot Walsh, Hazel Court, Jennifer Jayne, Ferdy Mayne, Ernest Clark, Martin Benson, Diana Chesney, David Lander, Gordon Tanner, Paul Dickson.

Brian Clemens, later to earn a place in television history with the hugely popular series The Avengers (1961–9), was clearly popular at the Danzigers B-feature studio around the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their relevant ventures together include:

  • The DEPRAVED (1957)
  • THREE SUNDAYS TO LIVE (1957)
  • MOMENT OF INDISCRETION (1958)
  • THREE CROOKED MEN (1958)
  • The PURSUERS (1961)
  • RETURN OF A STRANGER (1961)
  • Two Wives at One Wedding (1961)

A Woman of Mystery is a fairly typical Danzigers production, although not so typical of Clemens’s screenplays. The plot lacks his trademark twists and turns and especially that slightly surreal edge that tends to mark his work. It’s a good workmanlike tale, though, and on the whole competently acted by a not insignificant cast. What lets it down are the production standards—a point I’ll come back to. Michael Caine has an uncredited bit part as a thug; no comment.

Dermot Walsh as Ray and Hazel Court as Joy.

Jane Hale (uncredited), a hatcheck girl at the Flamingo Club, seemingly gasses herself. Harvey (Clark), editor of Fact, “the magazine of private and confidential stories,” thinks her death might make a good human-interest story, and sets crack reporter Ray Savage (Walsh) the task of investigating this potential “woman of mystery.”

Jennifer Jayne as Ruby.

Needless to say, Ray’s digging reveals Jane didn’t commit suicide at all: she was murdered. After interviewing a bunch of people—including Jane’s latest boyfriend, Thomas Winter (Dickson), and her best friend, Ruby Ames (Jayne)—he and Joy Grant (Court), Harvey’s secretary/assistant, link Jane’s death to the Rexworth Escort Bureau, owned by Charles Lloyd (Tanner).

Ernest Clark as Harvey.

Although, according to Joy’s researches, the bureau isn’t a front for prostitution, it seems it is a front for a criminal gang headed by the enigmatic Mr. Gillard . . .

The production values are low, even by Danzigers standards, and there are continuity errors galore. For example, Ray’s investigation takes him to Southampton, and his voiceover narration tells us he chose to go there by train; on his arrival there, we see him take a taxi to his primary destination in the city. Later during his day in Southampton, though, we see him climbing out of his own Ford Anglia.

Gordon Tanner as Charles Lloyd.

The most egregious piece of cheapskatery occurs when Lloyd rushes out of his apartment building across the road to his car; Ray and Joy, who’ve been parked nearby, drive after him. For the relevant few seconds, the makers simply re-used a piece of footage from earlier in the movie, when Ray on his own, parked nearby, followed Lloyd. The re-use is obvious, especially when, in the second iteration, we get a glimpse through the passenger window of Roy’s car and can see that Joy has mysteriously become invisible.

Just to cap it all, when they reach Lloyd’s destination, Ray and Joy are now in a different Ford Anglia!

Paul Dickson as Thomas Winter.

If you’re not in a picky mood, A Woman of Mystery is a very enjoyable little bottom-of-the-biller, one that might well have fitted into the EDGAR WALLACE MYSTERIES series that entertained UK cinema audiences in the 1960s. Dermot Walsh is a skilled hand at this sort of thing; Hazel Court is appealing as always, bringing some flair to what could have been just a romantic-interest role; and there’s a bonus in the form of Jennifer Jayne as a rather earnest “leg dancer.”

8 thoughts on “A Woman of Mystery (1958)

  1. Not seen this but I love the stuff that Clemens used to churn out for the Danzigers (never sure, incidentally, of just how seriously to take the co-writing credit for Eldon Howard as she used to turn up a lot – but then, she was Edward Danziger’s mother-in-law …). I always felt that his later screen plays like …AND THEN THE DARKNESS and especially BLIND TERROR were updated versions of this kind of work. Certainly true of his later TV series, THRILLER. Funny you should mention the Wallace series – yesterday was wet and grey here and so I watched a mid-range episode from that series, THE SHAREOUT, starring Moira Redmond, Alexander Knox, William Russell and Bernard Lee and which is most par-for-the-course but has a very interesting ending.

    • I too tend to gravitate toward anything with Clemens’s name on it: even his hackwork tends to have some extra zing about it.

      I remember enjoying The Share Out when I watched it for THE BOOK, but alas the ending is now lost to me!

      • Not surprised – other films from the series are much more memorable. Quite surprised Clemens didn’t write for the Wallace series – but not sure he ever did anything for Merton Park in fact … Maybe they paid too little even compared with the Danzigers!

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