5. Charles Gray as Valmont in “The Absent Minded Coterie” by Robert Barr (1849-1912), Dramatized by Alexander Baron, and Directed by Peter Duguid.
Valmont is knowledgeable and suave, very continental, and never gets very excited except over fine food and alcoholic beverages. There are two cases here: first a scam on the forgetful, in which they are identified by advertising a cure for absent-mindedness, and then they are sold something for a slightly lower price than normal, to be paid so much per week. Then a beautiful woman shows up every week to collect the fee, except that she continues to collect long after the bill is fully paid. Plus: 5-shilling pieces are counterfeited using half the amount of silver, making each transaction carry a 50% profit.
Barr occasionally parodied other fictional detectives in his stories, even Sherlock. He and Arthur Conan Doyle were great friends, and Doyle was a great admirer.
6. John Thaw as Lt. Holst in “The Sensible Action of Lieutenant Holst” by Baron Palle Rosenkrantz (1854-1914), Dramatized by Michael Meyer, and Directed by Jonathan Alwyn.
Such fun to see Thaw so young! It is 1905 in Copenhagen and Holst is presented with a truly confusing he said/she said problem. The Countess Wolkonski (Maria Schell) says her brother-in-law Count Wolkonski (Philip Madoc) has murdered her husband and son and has followed her to Denmark to kill her as well. The Count says yes, he has followed her, but it is because she has absconded with his brother’s entire estate, and he only wants what was legally willed to him. Further muddying the waters is their penchant for calling names: he is an “anarchist”, she is a “Tsarist”. When Mrs. Ulla Holst (Virginia Stride) gets a chance to meet the countess she tells her husband that she is sure the woman is telling the truth – she is utterly convincing to another woman, and who should know better? Rosenkrantz (and Meyer) has elegantly balanced the situation. A good story well-presented.
Rosenkrantz did not use his title on his books and stories. He was a Baron who did not grow up in the style expected of the titled. He married a grocer’s daughter and eventually had to write fiction to make ends meet. He introduced Denmark to crime fiction as an independent genre.
7. Douglas Wilmer as Van Dusen in “The Superfluous Finger” by Jacques Futrelle, Dramatized by Julian Bond, and Directed by Derek Bennett.
An attractive young woman (Veronica Strong), who refuses to give her name, is trying to talk the renowned London surgeon Sir Tobias Prescott (Laurence Payne) into amputating her left forefinger at the second joint. The surgeon refuses, but she manages to get her finger mutilated in the office door as she is leaving. Now he has no choice and the amputation is performed. But as he prepares to operate he tells his receptionist Miss Jones (Margaret John) to call Professor Van Dusen and ask him to come over ASAP. He tells Van Dusen about this curious case while the lady is still unconscious, and Van Dusen says he will think about it. An attractive young woman, Miss Rossmore (also Veronica Strong), visits the somewhat mad uncle from whom she will, perhaps in a very few years, inherit a mansion and a tub-full of money. He is waving a handgun around and it goes off. She falls to the floor, we see a fair amount of blood, and Sir Hector Drummond, Bart (William Mervyn) says, “Damn thing was loaded after all.”
Are there two young women? Or only one? Dennis Chinnery plays Mr. Morey, and Mark Eden plays Van Dusen’s reporter friend Roderick Varley.
This is a really good story, excellent throughout, and Mervyn keeps the humor coming as Sir Hector Drummond, Bt.