Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Man at the Carlton Tower (1961)

Man at the Carlton Tower is one of the many B-movies based on Edgar Wallace stories that were cranked out by Britain’s Merton Park Studios in the early 1960s. Man at the Carlton Tower is a pretty decent entry in the series.

The story gets going right from the start with a daring robbery from a jeweller’s store in London. A policeman is shot dead trying to apprehend the thief. Detective Superintendent Cowley (Allan Cuthbertson) has only one possible clue to give him hope - the method used by the thief to crack the jeweller’s safe was rather distinctive. Superintendent Cowley decides to ask his old friend Tim Jordan (Lee Montague) for help.

Tim Jordan is an ex-Scotland Yard man who retired after coming into a great deal of money. He had also spent some time as a colonial policeman in Rhodesia and he remembers a celebrated robbery in Salisbury a couple of years earlier - the method used was the same as in the recent London robbery. Tim was certain of the identity of the Salisbury thief - a man named Lew Daney - but could not find the evidence to get a conviction. It was the biggest failure of his police career and it still rankles. He persuades Superintendent Cowley to put him on the case as a temporary unpaid Scotland Yard man.

Tim Jordan has another lead that he thinks might be useful - on the very day that Cowley contacted him he ran into Harry Stone (Alfred Burke) in a London hotel. Harry Stone had been an accomplice of Lew Daney’s in Rhodesia.

Lew Daney’s wife Lydia (Maxine Audley) might also be worth investigating. Lydia seems like a rather classy lady to be married to a criminal, in fact classy enough to arouse a more than professional interest in Tim Jordan. The smooth but shady Johnny Time (Terence Alexander) also knows more than he’s prepared to talk about.

Tim and Superintendent Cowley feel that they have most of the pieces needed to solve the jigsaw puzzle but they’re increasingly inclined to suspect that they’ve been putting the pieces together in entirely the wrong way. 

It’s a very serviceable plot with enough to keep the viewer interested for the film’s modest 57-minute running time. Philip Mackie, who went on to become a very fine and very successful television writer, wrote the screenplay. Director Robert Tronson had a very distinguished career as a television director and given the meagre budget he had to work with here he does a very competent job and keeps the pacing pleasingly tight.

The film’s biggest plus is the excellent cast which includes some truly marvellous British character actors getting the opportunity to play more substantial roles than usual. Allan Cuthbertson is very good as the harassed but determined Superintendent Cowley. Maxine Audley is excellent as the possibly not entirely trustworthy Lydia Daney. Alfred Burke and Nigel Green, two of my all-time favourite actors, have a wonderful time as the two villains Harry Stone and Lew Daney. 

Lee Montague proves to be a likeable lead as Tim Jordan, the amiable ex-cop who is much cleverer than he seems to be.

Man at the Carlton Tower is one of the seven movies included in Network’s Region 2 Edgar Wallace Mysteries: Volume 2 DVD set. The anamorphic transfer is extremely good.

Man at the Carlton Tower is a good solid B-movie mystery. It doesn’t do anything ground-breaking but it delivers reasonable entertainment with the strong cast being a bonus. Recommended.


  1. What a phenomenal cast! I've got this box set in my wish list, but I can't decide whether to get this or the BBC's Out Of The Unknown set after my next pay day!

    1. Having FINALLY got round to watching this, first, the cast are as good as I expected! I've always liked Lee Montague, and it's always fun to watch Allan Cuthbertson.

      The plot was better than I expected - watching the box set in order, this may be the best one so far.

      My only issue was the resolution. It's well staged - very well staged - but it's an idiot plot (where the plot only makes sense if everyone acts like an idiot.) Both the police and the main villain make extremely basic mistakes. And did nobody have a sense of smell in 1961?

      Still, that's the only quibble. Recommended.

    2. and it's always fun to watch Allan Cuthbertson.

      One of those delightful British character actors who always delivers the goods.

      The plot was better than I expected - watching the box set in order, this may be the best one so far.

      It's a fine illustration of the principle that budgets are irrelevant in these kinds of movies. If the script is solid and you have the right actors you can make a terrific crime movie. And in British movies of that era you don't need really big name stars - they had such an extraordinary depth of reliable acting talent.