The action centres around an investment broker in this 1962 entry in the Edgar Wallace Mysteries series of B movies. Carol Halston turns up at Paul Heindrik’s office, concerned about the circumstances surrounding her sister’s death. She consulted Heindrik for advice, withdrew £7000 in cash the day before she died, and then took an overdose of sleeping pills. Now the money is nowhere to be seen. It sounds like an interesting mystery, but it’s barely a mystery at all, beyond some initial attempts to paint a picture of Heindrik as a man who wouldn’t stoop to such lengths.
When Carol raises the matter with the police, it’s apparently the first anyone has heard about the withdrawal of the money, after several weeks have elapsed (Carol has been abroad). Surely her finances would have been checked for suspicious activity? It is left to various characters other than the police to try to hold Heindrik to account, at least for the majority of the film, in line with how these mysteries often work. We don’t have a substitute for a detective as such this time (as per some of the previous films, where insurance investigators or newspaper reporters acted in that capacity), and we do have the police getting increasingly involved as the film progresses, but first of all Heindrik’s nephew Derek (a disappointingly dull Kenneth Cope) is the one doing most of the snooping around. He’s trying to sponge off his uncle and has become involved in some kind of trouble of his own, so his motives are not exactly altruistic, but he does make for an effective protagonist to push the story forwards, following around the two women involved until he gets some answers.
Also trying to hold Heindrik to account, but for less selfish reasons, is his very unusual secretary, Jean. She is secretly working to help ex-convict Ross Williams, whom she feels was wronged by Heindrik in the past. Williams is such a callous and unsympathetic character that it’s hard to believe an intelligent woman like Jean would side with him so strongly. She doesn’t even seem to be blinded by love particularly, but is apparently acting chiefly on some kind of warped principles, and her reward is to end up a witness at a murder scene in the pouring rain, where a blackmailer brandishing a gun gets run over by a car for his troubles. There should be a lesson here about the foolishness of helping somebody dangerous who doesn’t deserve any help, but Jean’s stupidity doesn’t seem to dawn on her much, with Heindrik’s comment, “if you hadn’t tried to help him, he would be alive now,” failing to land. She’s an odd character, and not particularly believable as a real person.
Inspector Simons, when he starts getting more involved in the action, provides us with a much better protagonist. Leslie Sands does a good job with the role, playing Simons with a piercing, dangerous stare when he has his target in his sights, and he looks like a man who is enjoying the game of cat and mouse. He is a probably the most memorable of the main characters, but I think the two performances that will stick in the mind are a couple of cameo roles. Barbara Windsor turns up for an oddly redundant scene as Carol’s roommate, getting out of the shower when Derek shows up in a bizarrely coincidental dress rehearsal for Windsor and Cope’s Carry On careers, and acting like she can’t wait to let her towel drop for the handsome chap who has turned up in her bedroom. It is spoilt somewhat by a presumably over-excited director shooting the shower scene from too low an angle, revealing that Babs is oddly showering in her clothes and is fully dressed under that towel.
But the most entertaining performance of the film belongs to Richard Bird as old vagrant Ted Cupps, who finds the abandoned car and demands a reward. His accent completely changes between location and studio footage, but he’s a very funny character. Bird and Windsor both momentarily bring the film to life, amongst a sea of generally bland performances. The film ends with the words, “let’s try the gin,” and after watching the last couple of disappointing efforts in this film series, anyone could be forgiven for turning to drink. As for the detective, helping himself to somebody else’s booze while on duty, I’m not so sure. RP
Read next in the Junkyard… The Edgar Wallace Mysteries: The Set Up