H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – The Vanishing Evidence

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When a colleague of Brady’s is murdered and the secret formula he was working on stolen, the Invisible Man is sent on a mission to Amsterdam.  The authorities are hopeful that they’ll be able to retrieve the papers from the thief, Peter Thal (Charles Gray), and they need Brady on hand in order to verify that they’re genuine.  But when the agent tasked with recovering the papers, Jenny Reyden (Sarah Lawson), is forced to kill Thal, Brady has to somehow work out a way to get the papers out of Thal’s safe as well as ensuring Jenny is released from the clutches of the authorities ….

Thal might have gained access to Professor Harper’s (James Raglan) house on the pretext that he was a fellow scientist, but it’s pretty obvious within the first few seconds that he’s a wrong-‘un.  Even with a slightly dodgy foreign accent, Gray is his usual sinister self – best seen when Thal casually confirms that nobody else worked with Harper on the project and also that all the papers are sitting on his desk (a tad convenient, it must be said).  Once he’s satisfied about these points, he shoots Harper in cold blood and coolly walks out with the formula.

It’s a pity that Thal doesn’t stick around the episode longer (he’s killed some ten minutes in) but at least he has a memorable death scene.  After realising that Jenny is a spy rather than his contact, they have a brief struggle.  Physical violence wasn’t really a feature of this era of television (at least not in drama of this type) so it’s slightly unusual to see Thal manhandle Jenny quite so roughly (grabbing her by the throat).  But she’s no shrinking violet – she’s able to reach into her bag, pull out a gun and shoot him.

Thal takes a long time to die, it must be said.   He’s able to stagger about the room, open the window, throw the safe key out of the window, leer at Jenny in a self-satisfied way and then grab the curtains before collapsing.  If you’re going to go, then go in style ….

I don’t quite understand why Jenny, if she’s a spy, also appears to be something of a celebrity.  She’s featured on the front page of a magazine, which enables the hotel porter (played by Michael Ripper) to easily identify her.

Ripper, a very familiar Hammer stalwart, is great fun.  Subtle he isn’t, but entertaining he is.  When the gunshot rings out, the porter becomes boggle-eyed, dashing about in a frenzy.  You can also guess the way he’s going to react when Brady starts doing some invisible antics in front of him (and he doesn’t disappoint).  Michael Ripper, master of the shocked and surprised expression. For some reason, Brady elects to play two invisible people (a man and a woman) whilst lifting Thal’s flat key from under the porter’s nose – all the better to bamboozle him I guess.

Sarah Lawson had plenty of credits to her name, although for me her role as Flo Mayhew in Callan was especially noteworthy.  The always dependable Ewen Solon appears as Superintendent Van Reyneveld whilst Peter Illing somewhat chews the scenery as Inspector Strang.

This is another story where Brady’s invisible abilities are somewhat underused (yes, he breaks into Thal’s flat to get the papers, but since he took the porter along it was hardly clandestine).  It’s also a pity that the oddities of Jenny’s character are never addressed.  Not the best story then, but a substantial comic role for Michael Ripper helps to soften the blow a little.

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Picnic with Death

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Following a car accident, Brady’s invisible state becomes public knowledge.  Whilst he struggles to adjust to his new-found fame, one of Sally’s friends, Linda Norton (Margaret Court) approaches him with a strange story.  She claims that her stepfather and his sister are planning to kill her mother ….

Picnic with Death rehashes some material from the unaired pilot concerning Brady’s emergence as a public figure.  The reason for not keeping his invisible identity secret any longer is obvious in one way, since it widens the range of stories he can become involved in (as here, with Linda turning to him for help).

John Norton (Derek Bond) and his sister Carol (Faith Brook) are deeply attached to their family home, Foxgrange.  John’s wife, Janet (Maureen Prior), is a woman of independent means and John is hopeful that she’ll continue to pour more money into Foxgrange’s upkeep.  She refuses, as she can see there would never be enough money available to maintain it for any length of time.  Her refusal – and by this time we’re about half-way through the story – does seem to bear out Linda’s story, as John exits in a threatening manner.  But with Brady dismissing the tale as little more than adolescent jealousy, it falls to Sally to turn detective.

Margaret Court is remarkably squeaky and rather highly-strung as Linda, so it’s possibly not surprising that Brady dismisses her out of hand.  Sally’s decision to lurk around the bushes – where she overhears John and Carol plotting to murder Janet – is an unexpected turn of events but it’s nice that Deborah Watling is a little more involved in the story for once.

Derek Bond, the second Hunter (from Callan) to appear in the series, following Michael Goodliffe in Secret Experiment, glowers in a menacing fashion and helps to raise the story a little.  Part of the problem is that it’s hard not to believe that Brady will save the day once he’s been convinced that Linda and Sally know what they’re talking about.  Still, there’s an amusing cameo from Hammer stalwart Michael Ripper (“Eh Harry, that invisible man. He’s here!”) to sweeten the pill a little.

Of course, Brady turns up in the nick of time to prevent Janet from plummeting to her death over a cliff in a runaway car whilst Diane finds a gun from somewhere to keep John and Carol covered (this is odd, since Diane has never seemed the gun-toting type before).  A slightly messy tale then, but as with all the stories it clips along at a decent pace.

Gideon’s Way- The Big Fix

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Jimmy Watson (Griffith Davies) is a stable lad who’s been bribed to ensure one of his horses doesn’t win the big race.  But security was too tight for Watson to get to the horse and he goes on to win easily.  Later, Watson is beaten up in revenge and dies of his injuries.  Asked to investigate the continuing doping problem by the chief security officer of the Jockey Club, Bill Campbell (Robert Brown), Gideon counters that he’s more interested in Watson’s murder.  But as Campbell says, if they solve the doping mystery then the identity of the murderer should also be revealed.  So Gideon agrees to look into it.

Gideon’s rather proactive, as he sets off immediately for a meeting with the wonderfully named Bookie Thompson (Max Bacon).  Bookie is able to info-dump a great deal of information very quickly (how horses are drugged, etc) which is very useful for the plot, but Bacon’s comic timing gives the scene a little extra depth.

Following Watson’s death, the gang need another inside man, so they select Jo Short (Michael Ripper) who works for the prestigious stables run by Colonel Alec Middleton (Maurice Hedley).  Jo has worked for Middleton for twenty years and seems totally incorruptible, but it soon becomes clear that he’s heavily and debt and so reluctantly agrees to dope Port Arthur, a well-backed favourite in a forthcoming race.

Ripper, a very dependable film and television face (well known for appearing in a score of Hammer films), is perfect as the conflicted Jo.  When we see his homelife – a young child, an unruly teenage daughter and a tearaway teenage son who’s been fined fifty pounds for criminal damage – it’s obvious that he’s under great strain and is therefore ripe for the picking.  Apart from the general day-to-day problem of feeding his family, there’s the more pressing issue of his son’s pending fine.  So he agrees to dope the horse, although it’s clear from the misery on his face that it’s far from an easy decision.  But once he’s in, he finds it impossible to get out, as the gang then ask him to dope another one –  if he doesn’t, they tell him that his daughter will never look the same again.

This is a dream assignment for Keen.  Gideon suggests he goes undercover at Middleton’s stables and the first thing he does when he arrives is to passionately kiss Middleton’s gorgeous daughter Janet (Penelope Horner).  Keen insists this is because they’re being observed by Jo, and he wants to keep the pretence up that he’s nothing more than an interested visitor, but you know that he would have done it sooner or later!  He also seems quite comfortable when he and Janet stake out the next horse to be doped, as they lie together snugly in the hay.

The seedy world of the on-track bookmakers is captured quite well, although cutting between the film shot specially for the episode and stock footage of real race days never quite convinces.  And there does seem to be slightly more of a studio-bound feel to this one, for example there’s no filming in the streets of London.  We do see several establishing shots, but it’s only stock footage used to set the scene for studio locations.

Gideon’s plan is to fool the gang into thinking they’ve doped another favourite, when the real horse is actually somewhere else and well protected.  This works well, but neither Gideon or Keen seem to have realised that the gang will then decide to extract retribution from the hapless (and innocent) Jo.  The police do turn up, just about in the nick of time, although not before Jo’s been kicked unconscious.  This also enables them to make some arrests, but you’d have assumed that Gideon would have ensured that Jo would have been under strict surveillance the whole time.  Although I guess that the last minute dash to save his life has a dramatic feel to it.

Michael Ripper is always worth watching, Penelope Horner is very easy on the eye and it’s also nice to see Robert Brown (later to become a regular in the James Bond films) in a small role.  This isn’t the best the series can offer, but it’s amiable enough.