Saturday, March 12, 2016

Send for Paul Temple (1946)

The Paul Temple character originated in 1938 in a BBC radio series written by Francis Durbridge. It was followed by further radio series, a number of novels, a comic strip and a successful 1969 BBC television series. Four Paul Temple movies were made in the late 1940s, beginning in 1946 with Send for Paul Temple (retitled The Green Finger in the US).

The four Paul Temple movies were released by Butcher’s Film Service. Send for Paul Temple is a B-movie although whether it can be dismissed as a quota quickie is arguable (and in any case many quota quickies were quite decent B-pictures).

Paul Temple makes his living as a popular crime novelist but he seems to keep getting mixed up in real crimes as well, which he solves with some help from his wife.

Scotland Yard is baffled by a series of daring smash-and-grab raids carried out by a gang in the Midlands. That’s  bad enough but when a night watchman is killed by the gang the pressure mounts on the police. The press are asking the question - should the Yard send for Paul Temple?

Temple has helped the police solve a number of well-publicised cases. Chief Inspector Harvey is certainly not too proud to ask Temple for advice. Things start to get complicated when Temple finds himself having to investigate a murder rather close to home, and the complications just keep on increasing.

The one clue the police have is the dying words of the night watchmen - the Green Finger. Paul Temple will get some unexpected assistance from an elderly lady, Miss Amilia Marchment, who happens to have a vast knowledge of old English inns - and old English inns play a vital role in the story.

Further assistance is rendered by feisty girl reporter Steve Trent (Joy Shelton). Steve, like so many characters in this tale, has a secret. Many of these secrets have their origins in the past, many in South Africa (where a previous series of robberies had baffled the police in Capetown). Pigeons, and a penguin will also play a part.

There’s a mystery to be solved but this is more a thriller than a mystery. This movie was adapted by Durbridge from the first of his Paul Temple novels, Send for Paul Temple, published in 1938. The novel is very much in the style of British thriller fiction of the interwar years, with fairly outrageous plotting and lots of breathless excitement (and it’s great fun too). The movie is very much in the same spirit. 

Needless to say the feisty girl reporter gets kidnapped by the bad guys at one point, while the body count mounts at an alarming rate. Behind all these crimes is a sinister criminal mastermind but even the bad guys have no idea of his true identity.

Anthony Hulme plays Temple in this first movie, although he was replaced by John Bentley for the other three films starting with Calling Paul Temple. The definitive Paul Temple is Francis Matthews in the much later BBC TV series but Hulme does a very acceptable job in the role. Joy Shelton is fine as Steve Trent. The supporting cast is quite adequate. Tamara Desni adds some glamour as the beautiful but deadly Diana Thornley. The nature of the story means the chief villain (whose identity is unknown until the end) does not get much of a opportunity to be really villainous.

John Argyle had a very limited career as a director but he keeps the action moving along, which is always the secret to making a low-budget movie work.

Renown Pictures have released the four Paul Temple movies on DVD individually and as part of a four-disc boxed set. Send for Paul Temple gets a pretty good transfer - not quite pristine but quite satisfactory. 

Send for Paul Temple is a good solid little thriller with plenty of plot twists plus some added bonuses like secret passageways - and any movie featuring secret passageways has a head start in my book. It’s very much a B-picture but it has all the virtues of good B-pictures - it’s fast-moving, slightly but enjoyably silly and thoroughly entertaining. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. I just got some of the books of Paul Temple, funnily enough. He's one of those characters who should make a comeback.