Sunday, January 24, 2016

On DVD: Colonel March of Scotland Yard (1956)

At the twilight of a brilliant film career, Boris Karloff, having already conquered stage & screen, set his sights on television. Most of you are familiar with his 1962 NBC series, Thriller, but before that, he'd had two series in his native England, neither of which is well remembered. One was The Veil, an anthology series similar in vein to the later Thriller, and might've been the inspiration for producer Hubbell Robinson to hire Karloff on for Thriller.

The other was Colonel March of Scotland Yard, which was distributed in syndication here in the US by Official Films in 1956. Fountain Films, a subsidiary of ITV (ITC), produced the series in England. In scope, it is not all that dissimilar to Karloff's "Mr. Wong" movies, produced 20 years earlier. Colonel March, like the Oxford educated James Wong, is somewhat derivative of England's most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and creator John Dickson Carr might've had Holmes in mind when he wrote The Department of Queer Complaints (under the pseudonym Carter Dickson) in 1940. However, Inspector Ames, often March's partner, is more of a comedy relief buffoon than a competent investigator, which actually does a disservice to the Yard.

Unfortunately, Alpha Video's prints do not hold up very well. Internet Archive came up with a print from a different source, it seems, of the episode, "The Silver Curtain":

As we've discussed previously, a fair number of ITV/ITC series didn't go too far past one season, with a few exceptions (i.e. The Saint). Were Colonel March to be revived today, more than 75 years after his debut, the challenge would be to find an actor to essay the part not entirely similar to Karloff.

Rating: C.


Mike Doran said...

Just back here looking (admittedly late) when I noticed this one.

If you watch this one all the way through, you'll note the young guy who was the main suspect - a very young Arthur Hill, fresh from Canada, and on his way to his later US-TV career.

Also the credited screenwriter was "Leslie Slote", which was a favored pen name for blacklisted American screenwriters at that time.
Sir Lew Grade often "outsourced" his script assignments, for shows such as Robin Hood, The Invisible Man, and this show, through American execs who covered for the anonymous Yanks (supposedly, the American buyers of these shows were never the wiser - or it was "don't ask, don't tell" ...).

hobbyfan said...

Interesting. I wonder if a book's been written about that practice.....