Monday, August 8, 2016

Marriage of Convenience (1960)

Marriage of Convenience was one of the many Edgar Wallace adaptations cranked out by Britain’s Merton Park Studios at the beginning of the 60s. These were B-movies but were screened on American television as the Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre.

Marriage of Convenience, released theatrically in Britain in 1960, is a fairly typical example of these films. It’s a low-key crime thriller that reaches no great heights but provides decent entertainment.

It has quite a clever opening sequence. Barbara Blair (Jennifer Daniels) arrives at the registry office to get married. Her husband-to-be arrives for the wedding in handcuffs. Larry Wilson (John Cairney) is serving a prison term for armed robbery. He’s been given permission to marry because Barbara is pregnant. 

The wedding takes an unusual turn. In fact the whole thing was an elaborate prison break scheme.

Now Larry is out but what he wants is the money that he stole from the bank. It should be no problem. His girlfriend Tina (Moira Redmond) is looking after it for him. Or at least that was the plan, but the plan has gone wrong.

Inspector Bruce (Harry H. Corbett) is on Larry’s trail and the trail will lead him (and lead Larry) to Inspector Maudle (John van Eyssen), now retired. 

Larry’s prison break scheme had also involved Barbara’s stepfather, habitual (but not very successful) criminal Sam Spencer (Russell Waters). Inspector Bruce is on Sam’s trail as well. The plot is a series of double-crosses, in typical Edgar Wallace style.

The screenplay, by Robert Banks Stewart, is not overly complex but it has just enough twists to keep things reasonably interesting. Director Clive Donner does as much as he can with what was obviously a very limited budget. He doesn’t try anything fancy but he keeps things moving.

Harry H. Corbett would become much more famous for comedy and at first it’s just a little off-putting seeing him playing things very straight. One keeps expecting him to do or say something funny but his performance is solid enough. John Cairney is pretty good as Larry, a criminal whose biggest problem is that he’s nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is. He’s just not cut out for big time crime but big time crime is where his ambitions lie.

John van Eyssen is good as the smooth ex-cop who can’t help being condescending to his former subordinate, the much more working class Inspector Bruce. Moira Redmond makes an effective would-be femme fatale while Jennifer Daniels does well as the good-natured Barbara who is (like Larry) ill-suited to a life of crime.

Network have released all 47 of the Merton Park Edgar Walllace thrillers in a series of DVD boxed sets. Most of the sets include around seven films with usually another non-Wallace B-film included as a bonus. Marriage of Convenience gets an excellent anamorphic transfer. 

With a running time of just 58 minutes Marriage of Convenience is strictly B-movie material but it’s a harmless and fairly enjoyable little crime film as long as you don’t set your expectations too high. Recommended.

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