Dick Barton at Bay was the second of the three Dick Barton spy thrillers made by Hammer in the late 40s (although it ended up being the last of the three to be released). It’s not great but it’s certainly a huge improvement on the astoundingly awful Dick Barton, Special Agent.
The Dick Barton character had featured in an extremely popular radio series and Hammer assumed that a series of low-budget Dick Barton movies would be guaranteed money-spinners. Their assumption turned out to be entirely correct. The movie series was tragically cut short when star Don Stannard was killed in a car accident following the completion of the third film.
These movies were “quota quickies” - very cheap films made to take advantage of British government policies to protect the British film industry. Quota quickies are often despised, sometimes for good reason, but they provided much-needed work for British actors and crews and some were quite decent pictures.
In order to persuade Professor Mitchell to co-operate Volkoff has also kidnapped his daughter (taking advantage of the well-known fact that scientists always have beautiful daughters). Volkoff does face one major hurdle though - he knows that the British intelligence services have assigned their top man to the case. Their top man is of course the famous Dick Barton, although you might well wonder how a secret agent comes to be a celebrity.
Don Stannard is not the most dynamic of actors but he conforms to the early 1950s idea of what a daring British secret agent would look like. Barton is assisted, as usual, by the faithful Snowey White (George Ford). In the first film in the series Barton’s pals were there mainly to provide excruciatingly unfunny comic relief. Fortunately the second film largely dispenses with the comic relief. Meinhart Maur makes Volkoff suitably fiendish and menacing. Some of the supporting players are alas rather wooden, although Tamara Desni gets into the spirit of things as the obligatory glamorous but dangerous female spy. Look out for a young Patrick Macnee in a bit part.
The special effects budget must have been miniscule indeed but while they’re definitely on the shoddy side of shoddy they don’t detract from the enjoyment too much. Rather wisely Grayson elected to keep them to an absolute minimum. The music is often wildly (if amusingly) inappropriate.
Dick Barton at Bay is a moderately entertaining very low-budget thriller but it’s light years ahead of the first Dick Barton film. Dick Barton, Special Agent had been played mostly (and with a resounding lack of success) for laughs. Dick Barton at Bay tries to be a relatively serious spy adventure but with a definite Boys’ Own Paper feel to it. It’s enjoyable as long as you don’t go into it with unrealistically high expectations. Worth a look.