The Lady-Killer opens with an off-duty policeman finding a woman’s body washed up on the beach. Our first sight of the woman’s husband Roger Clayton (Ray Barrett) is at her inquest. Although he doesn’t speak a word, it seems obvious that he’s a wrong ‘un – Clayton remains unemotional throughout, except after the verdict of misadventure is given. Then we see Barrett raise his eyes, look into the camera and give the ghost of a smile.
His feigned surprise at learning that his wife was a wealthy woman and then his palpable disappointment when he realises he’s only been left a few thousand pounds is a clear indication her death was no accident. And when Keen’s latest girlfriend Ria (Justine Lord) introduces Clayton (although he’s now’s changed his name to Robert Carne) to the lonely and wealthy Marion Grove (Rosemary Leach) he wastes no time in sweeping her off her feet and he asks her to marry him. She gladly accepts.
There’s a slight logical loophole in this story. Ria invites the man she knows as Robert Carne to a party where he meets and romances Marion. But since he’s only recently started using this new alias it’s strange that Ria greets him with a certain amount of familiarity – as they must be new acquaintances.
It’s easy to see that Carne’s downfall comes from his decision to use an alias. If he hadn’t, there would have been nothing suspicious to pique Keen’s interest. So if he’d told Marion that his previous wife had died in a tragic accident that would have made him untouchable.
But he now faces two problems – Keen is perturbed by Carne’s change of identity and decides to reinvestigate the drowning, plus Carne is also targeted by Bert Macey (John Tate). Macey was a witness at the inquest and threatens to tell Marion the truth unless he’s handsomely paid off. In desperation Carne throws a rock at the departing Macey, which knocks him out (and apparently kills him). This is a little difficult to believe – partly because the rock was quite small and not thrown very hard, but also because it hit Macey on his shoulder (had it been a violent blow to the head it would have been more credible).
The two main plot-threads – Carne’s plan to murder his latest wife and Keen’s increasing suspicions – run parallel for most of the story. It’s not until well into the final third of the episode that Keen starts to actively investigate and at the same time it becomes clear that Carne is planning to imminently strike. It does stretch credibility that he doesn’t wait a little longer before murdering again (he’s only been married for a week or so!). And the way he decides to kill Marion – leaving her drugged in their cottage with a fuse-box rigged to explode – also necessitates him having to speak out loud to explain what’s happening (which feels a little clumsy).
A number of coincidences have to come into play to enable Keen to rescue Marion. But after she is found safe and well, Carne folds like a pack of cards and attempts to make a run for it. Luckily Sergeant Fowler (Howard Lang) is on hand – firstly to grab him and then to knock him out! Keen looks on approvingly at this example of the strong arm of the law.
Although the plotting is a little suspect, Ray Barrett is in fine form as the eponymous lady-killer. Barrett would become a familiar voice-artist on various Gerry Anderson productions during the 1960’s (Stingray, Thunderbirds) and had, earlier in 1964, played a memorable villain in the Doctor Who story The Rescue. Although Rosemary Leach might as well have had “victim” tattooed on her forehead, she was still able to make Marion something more than the cardboard character she could have been. And it’s always a pleasure to see Justine Lord (who graced various cult 1960’s series like Out of the Unknown, The Saint, Man in a Suitcase and The Prisoner) although given David Keen’s ever-roving eye, it’s probably no surprise that this was her only Gideon’s Way appearance.