Monday, May 02, 2016


Scotland Yard is itching to get their hands on the Maddick gang, a group of jewel thieves who often use average citizens as patsies to get their hands on gems. When a policeman is found dead, clutching a piece of paper that says "Maddick B 1935 AD," the Yard becomes more determined to find this mysterious culprit who, supposedly, no one has seen. Young detective Pete Borden (Esmond Knight) poses as a thief and fakes a jewel robbery just to get into contact with the gang, and when he meets Maddick, all he sees is a shadowy figure hidden behind a bright light, playing chess and communicating through an intercom. Pete becomes an accepted gang member, hits it off with fellow thief Natacha (Lilli Palmer), and begins leaking information to his fellow policemen, but soon Meddick becomes suspicious and lays a trap for Pete, which leads both Pete and Natacha into trouble.

This is a "quota quickie" a British B-movie produced to satisfy the requirement that a certain percentage of films shown in England be homegrown. This is not one of the stronger ones, though it has its moments. The best elements are its lead actors: Knight, who went onto have a long career as a supporting actor, is handsome and personable, and the German Palmer, in her first English language film, is just as good. There is a clever gimmick in which Knight, stashed away in an apartment by the gang, gets information out to his fellow cops by opening his window shade and mouthing his words to a lip-reading cop across the street to "read" (pictured). The scenes of Knight's meetings with Meddick are atmospheric, though the revelation Meddick's identity is anti-climactic. Much of the narrative feels disjointed, and scenes that could be suspenseful are abruptly cut off or just end in an awkward fade. But there are pleasures to be had, and at 70 minutes, it moves quickly. [TCM]

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