Friday, October 14, 2016

The Teckman Mystery (1954)

The Teckman Mystery is a 1954 British crime thriller with a hint of espionage as well.

Philip Chance (John Justin) is a novelist who is being pressured by his publisher Maurice MIller (Raymond Huntley) to try his hand at writing a biography. The subject Maurice has in mind is test pilot Martin Teckman who was killed six months earlier when a highly advanced experimental aircraft disintegrated in midair. While this might sound like an interesting project to many writers Philip is not interested at all. Or at least he is not interested until he remembers meeting Teckman’s sister on a plane. Helen Teckman is young, attractive and vivacious and in researching her brother’s life he’s likely to have to spend some time with her. So maybe the biography is not such a bad idea after all.

Curiously enough another writer had been offered the assignment to write the biography but she was badly injured in a car accident immediately after accepting the offer.

It seems that certain people are rather anxious to stop Philip Chance from writing this book as well. When one of Martin Teckman’s former colleagues winds up dead in Philip’s flat the biography starts to sound like a surprisingly perilous undertaking.

There are plenty of plot twists in store as Philip finds himself drawn into a drama that involves subversive political organisations and foreign powers. Philip is too deeply involved to back out now and in any case he thinks that Helen Teckman is in danger and he’s determined to save her.

Philip is happy enough to bring the police into the matter but there seem to be other agencies interested as well, probably from both sides of the Iron Curtain. Philip will find himself being used as bait to bring some of these parties into the open, a rather risky proposition as several people have already been killed as a result of prying into the Teckman mystery.

Francis Durbridge co-wrote the screenplay and anything Durbridge was mixed up in is generally going to be pretty entertaining. This is no exception. Wendy Toye directed. She had a fairly brief career as a director but she handles matters competently enough in this film.

Durbridge liked to make his heroes (such as his most famous creation, Paul Temple) crime writers so it’s no surprise that the hero here is a writer. While Paul Temple is a keen amateur sleuth Philip Chance is a more reluctant hero. This story belongs firmly to the sub-genre in which some poor chump gets mixed up in something horribly dangerous and his survival then depends of seeing it through.

The acting helps a good deal. John Justin as Philip is a charming enough hero although in truth he’s a fairly unheroic hero. He’s hopelessly out of his depth but he’s persistent and he means well. Margaret Leighton has a slightly odd but intriguing manner which makes Helen seem just a little exotic, which works quite well.

There’s the usual array of fine character actors in supporting parts. Roland Culver is good as always as Major Harris, who might give the impression of being a policeman but is obviously Special Branch or more probably MI5. Raymond Huntley (who plays Philip’s publisher) is one of those familiar cinematic faces one can never put a name to but who always give reliable performances. George Coulouris is fun as the dipsomaniac former aircraft designer who gives Philip the first clue to Teckman’s vanishing act.

Network’s Region 2 DVD offers an excellent transfer, with not much in the way of extras, at a reasonable price.

The Teckman Mystery is a well-crafted and enjoyable spy thriller even if the plot is a little over-complicated at times. Margaret Leighton’s performance is the highlight. Highly recommended.


  1. Sounds good. I'm a big fan of Margaret Leighton and George Coulouris.

    1. I wasn't really aware of Margaret Leighton until I saw this film but now I'm anxious to see more of her films.

  2. I saw this the other day. I'm surprised they didn't make any sequels.