Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Ricochet (1963)

Ricochet is one of the prolific series of Edgar Wallace crime thrillers from England’s Merton Park Studios and this 1963 production is a typical entry in that cycle. In other words it’s an excellent little B-movie.

Solicitor Alan Phipps (Richard Leech) isn’t rich but his wife Yvonne (Maxie Audley) is. Alan decides to do something about this unfortunate situation. He cooks up a scheme to blackmail Yvonne.

Now obviously blackmailing his own wife isn’t something that a man can do directly. Especially if he’s going to try to blackmail her about an affair that she had. Alan will need someone else to do the blackmailing on his behalf. The obvious choice is the man with whom Yvonne had the affair.

This man, John Brodie (Alex Scott), is broke and he’s never had any moral standards so he should be ideal for the job.

When Alan explains to Brodie exactly how the scheme is to work it’s clear to the viewer that certain plot twists are very likely to occur. But screenwriter Roger Marshall has more tricks than that up his sleeve.

Alan’s scheme is a pretty good one. It’s not just straightforward blackmail. Yvonne isn’t likely to pay a huge amount of blackmail over an affair that ended several years earlier. So Alan has added an extra twist, an extra something for which Yvonne will be prepared to pay a great deal of money. She just won’t have any choice.

It all goes off very smoothly. Alan is very pleased with himself, until he tries to pick up a certain package from the Post Office. The package has to be there, but it isn’t. That’s his first inkling that something may have gone slightly awry.

And then the chap arrives on his doorstep to remind him of his country club dues. Perhaps Alan might have guessed something was wrong here, but he is so confident that his scheme is foolproof that his suspicions are not aroused.

Alan’s situation is now rather awkward, and more plot twists will soon kick in.

As is usual with these movies the acting is very competent, with no acting weak links. Patrick Magee as the detective is the standout.

Almost all of the directors and writers who worked on these Merton Park movies ended up working mostly in television, but most had good television careers because they really were talented professionals. The director of this film (and a couple of others in the same series), John Llewellyn Moxey, falls into that category. Ricochet is nicely paced and skilfully executed.

Writer Roger Marshall had a great television career, the highlight being Public Eye which he created. Public Eye may be the best TV private eye series ever made.

So it’s no surprise that Marshall’s script for Ricochet is tautly constructed and that it all comes together in a very satisfactory manner.

This is mostly a plot-driven film but there’s some character stuff. Over-confidence and greed can lead to disaster, as two of the characters here find out.

These Edgar Wallace thrillers work so well because they don’t try to be too ambitious. With very very tight budgets there’s no scope for anything fancy in the visual department. The key was to have a solid script, and most of these movies definitely have that.

They also get the tone just right. The temptation to add comic or whimsical touches is resisted. The focus is on mystery and suspense. The stories are not grim but they are taken seriously. It’s fascinating to compare these films to the German Edgar Wallace krimis made at the same time, which take a totally different approach (with humour, whimsy and plenty of outrageousness) but one that works equally well.

Ricochet is a fine B-movie. Highly recommended.

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