Well, this was an interesting production, just not an interesting story. Philip Broadley wrote the only two-part storyline for Jason King in either this series or Department S, and King is effectively a supporting character in it. There’s a lot of location filming in Paris, and proper location filming with a real crew and most of the guest cast, although not Peter Wyngarde. Maybe he was off doing the “home movies” guerilla filming in Venice for other episodes while Clinton Greyn, Lee Patterson, Anton Rodgers, Johanna Dunham, and Michael Gwynn were in Paris for this one. Madeline Smith gets the girlfriend part in both episodes, but she didn’t get to go to Paris either.
The strangest thing about it is that the lead character is an American PI named John Mallen, played by Clinton Greyn, and he’s overdubbed. In earlier posts about ITC productions, I’ve referenced ITC’s deep bench of American and Canadian actors who they’d employ, people like Paul Maxwell, Ed Bishop, David Bauer, or Stuart Damon, but instead of using one of them, they gave this part to Greyn, who was Welsh. Perhaps Greyn tried to do the accent of a private eye from Santa Monica and the producers decided later on that they’d erred, and so they called in Shane Rimmer to overdub him. Rimmer isn’t credited. He often wasn’t in his long career – he provides a voice in the Michael Caine movie Billion Dollar Brain without a credit as well, to give another example – but it kind of makes you wish they’d have just called Rimmer in to play the part in the first place. Even the guy who plays the client is overdubbed. That sounds like Bauer, but I wouldn’t swear to it.
Anyway, the story itself is long, long, padded, and short on action. There’s a surprising twist near the end, when the story moves to a Paris-Rome express train and somebody’s going to come to a grisly and unexpected end, that I liked. But this is the sort of production where impatient men keep checking their handguns for no other reason to let the audience know they’re packing.
This is more like it! This is the first of five episodes written by Tony Williamson, who was working on all sorts of programs I enjoy from the late sixties. Assuming you can believe in the idea of a jumbo jet having an automatic landing system, then you can believe in the mechanics of this strange mystery, because a Boeing lands in London with all the passengers and crew missing and no signs of violence. It turns out that somebody was onboard who wasn’t supposed to be, and several powerful industrialists, including guest star Anton Rodgers, want to keep that a secret.
Honesty compels me to say that I don’t think for a minute this criminal plot would possibly work in the real world, because there are just too many moving parts. If three can keep a secret if two of them are dead, this is going to require a lot of bodies piling up. Our son was a little stumped by the criminals’ motives as well – market manipulation – so he was a little less than satisfied, but it’s got lots of intrigue and weirdness, plus Jason King wining and dining his way to the answers, so it was fun to watch even if it wouldn’t stand up to much critical scrutiny.
Holy anna, was that ever hilarious! Our son fell off the sofa laughing; kids are big with affectations, sure, but we were all laughing up a storm as things in this adventure by Tony Williamson spiral out of control. A con man, played by Anton Rodgers, accidentally ends up with a far bigger fish than he’d anticipated: one of London’s biggest mobsters. With only a short time to cough up the bearer bonds that he promised his actual target, the con man pulls Jeff into the mess, not realizing he’s getting a ghost as well. The con man can see Marty when he gets drunk enough!
I really love stories which feature the stakes getting hilariously higher and higher as one thing goes wrong after another. During one such spectacular mess, when things couldn’t possibly get any worse, Ivor Dean’s recurring character of Inspector Large shows up. It’s the most perfectly timed entrance ever and it had us howling. It’s easily one of the best episodes of the series so far.
It’s also the last episode of the series for the time being… to keep things fresh, we’re sending this wonderful show back to the shelf for a rest, but Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) will be back in August, so stay tuned!