Network on Air (studio)
980 min (length)
26 April 2021 (released)
27 April 2021
In this British crime series from the late 1950s, Canadian actor Robert Beatty is Detective Inspector Mike Maguire - a ‘Mountie’ assigned to London’s Scotland Yard in order to learn native crime fighting methods. Together with his English colleagues he takes on all sorts of cases ranging from blackmail, robberies, kidnapping and of course bloody murder.
Produced by the one and only Harry Alan Towers, the 39 episodes were directed by Bernard Knowles, Robert Lynn, Alvin Rakoff, Terence Fisher, Don Chaffey and Charles Saunders while an array of then popular actors (Ferdy Mayne, Hugh McDermott, Douglas Wilmer, William Hartnell, Barbara Steele, Patrick Magee, Sam Kydd and Michael Ripper to name but a few) all guest-starred. Some even appeared in more than one episode, like Sydney Tafler who was given ample opportunity to show off his trademark East End spiv characters or Patrick Troughton who plays a criminal ringleader in one episode and a down-on-his-luck tramp in another.
Although each episode is barely 25 minutes long – meaning plot and action often had to be ‘squeezed’ to fit into the tight timeframe – there’s plenty of action (we even have an almighty punch-up on top of a rollercoaster) and above all, an abundance of authentic London locations from an era which has almost vanished. The series attempts gritty realism and although many of the methods obviously appear somewhat outdated by nowadays high-tech crime-fighting standards no expense was spared to give the whole shebang proper authenticity, which is why ex-Superintendent Tom Fallon of Scotland Yard and crime consultant Duncan Webb were on hand offering their expert advice.
It’s impossible to mention every single episode, however, some actors and actresses who appear in the series were at the beginning of their careers. With that in mind it’s particularly interesting to point out Barbara Steele’s screen debut in the episode ‘Missing Persons’ in which she plays a runaway whose decision to join an escort agency brings her in mortal danger. Adrienne Corri, on the other hand, had already a considerable body of TV-work behind her and in the episode ‘Illegal Entry’ she plays a young German woman (her accent is more than passable) called Helga who is forced to steal a very expensive object from Baroness von Falkan (‘DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS’ Patricia Laffan) or else… In ‘Special Mission’ Hammer stalwart Michael Ripper is Charley Reed, part of a gang of robbers whose daring plan to steal thousands of pounds worth of wages via an elaborate newspaper delivery theft is brought to a swift end courtesy of Inspector Maguire, while other episodes like ‘Extradition’ suffer from the fact that each episode was allocated only 25 minutes screentime – here Robert Shaw is part of a gang who help their boss Phil Browne escape from a UK-bound ship after it transpires that he’s up for extradition with plans to send him back to New York but the way in which the criminals operate bear all the hallmarks of a script that sees logical thinking go overboard. And in the episode ‘Old Soldiers sometimes die’ two crafty conmen, who pretend to be retired bogus Colonels, lure unsuspecting tourists into a trap that promises them a quick way of earning several hundred bucks if they agree to a certain business proposition though quite what this proposition involves is never explained. Sometimes it all feels a little bit too pat.
Robert Beatty is in top form as the wisecracking Canadian cop Maguire who trades his traditional Mountie uniform in favour of suit, coat and hat while perfectly able to dish out kicks and punches when needed. He gets ample support from Inspector O’Shea (Jack Lambert), Det. Sergeant West (John Witty), Det. Inspector Winter (Duncan Lamont) and various other Constables and Flying Squad Officers though it’s usually our man Mike Maguire who handles the dirt and is often at the receiving end when it comes to punch-ups and fights.
All 39 episodes are now available on DVD as a 5-Disc set – a real treat for all those who love a bit of nostalgia.