The Calderwood Property Group is a very successful company with all the trappings of commercial success. The chairman is Colonel Calderwood (Alexander Knox). They have board meetings like any other company, to discuss business matters. But the business of the Calderwood Property Group is blackmail. Blackmail of an unusual kind. They gather, by various means (usually unsavoury and dishonest private enquiry agents), incriminating material - photos, documents and the like - on wealthy individuals and companies. They then force those individuals and companies to sell them properties for a fraction of their value. It’s a very successful racket and it allows Colonel Calderwood and his fellow board members to maintain the appearance of prosperous respectability. And since the blackmail method does not involve cash payments it’s not all that easy for the police to prove that blackmail has in fact been involved.
Detective Superintendent Meredith (Bernard Lee) has been trying for three years to break this racket but none of the victims (who fear that court proceedings would reveal their dirty little secrets) will co-operate. Now Meredith thinks he’s got a break but it’s a question of whether he or Colonel Calderwood can move most quickly. And Calderwood moves very quickly indeed, and very ruthlessly.
The Calderwood Property Group has amassed a great deal of money and at least one board member, John Crewe (Richard Vernon) feels that it’s time to share out the loot. The Colonel disagrees. He feels that they can accumulate a lot more without taking any undue risks. Monet (John Gabriel) and Diana Marsh (Moira Redmond), the other board members, are willing to go along with Calderwood. The problem of course is that once they share out the loot there’s nothing to stop any of the four from taking his or her share and then turning the others in to the police. So the share out, when it comes, will present difficulties.
So it’s all a matter of who’s going to stab whom in the back, and which of them will strike first, and what alliances may be made, and how trustworthy such alliances might be. And murder makes it rather more urgent that these questions be cleared up. There are only a handful of suspects but the movie is reasonably successful at keeping us guessing as to the truth.
Blackmail is an inherently sordid crime but blackmail by well-heeled upper-class types provides an interesting flavour.
There are also romantic complications as Mike Stafford and Diana Marsh fall for each other but is it love or manipulation?
This movie benefits from a fine cast. Bernard Lee could play this sort of rôle with his eyes shut. He was just born to play Scotland Yard detectives. Alexander Knox is smooth and sinister as Calderwood. Richard Vernon is always a delight. William Russell (best known for The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and as one of the very early companions in Doctor Who) plays cheerfully amoral private enquiry agent Mike Stafford (who works for Calderwood but may or may not be inclined to sell him out to Superintendent Meredith. Moira Redmond makes a good evil female conspirator/femme fatale.
Director Gerard Glaister had a distinguished career in television (mainly as a producer) and helmed four of the Merton Park Edgar Wallace films. He does a very competent job here. Philip Mackie’s screenplay is typically clever - Mackie was one of the best television writers of the ’60s and ’70s and he wrote no less than eight of the Edgar Wallace films.
Network, as usual, have provided an excellent anamorphic transfer. There are no extras but these Edgar Wallace sets are such outstanding value for money that it would be churlish to complain.
The Share Out is a good solid entry in the series. The most impressive thing about these Edgar Wallace films is that they didn’t just keep repeating themselves. You’re never quite sure what to expect when you put one of these discs in your DVD player. The lesser movies in the series are good and the better ones are very good indeed. The Share Out is recommended.