Cliff Owen (director)
94 min (length)
02 May 2022 (released)
01 May 2022
Fully restored and released for the first time on Blu-ray and Digital, this riotous comedy-crime caper from 1963 features Peter Sellers and a host of other much loved faces from 60s and 70s British TV as they – despite being rival gangs – are forced to get together in order to thwart the I.P.O. Mob (Impersonating Police Officer) from stealing their booty from right under their noses!
Former criminal Pearly Gates (Peter Sellers) would appear to have undergone a transformation for the better since Inspector ‘Nosey’ Parker (Lionel Jeffries) was responsible for sentencing him to a serious stint in the slammer. That was in the late 1940s mind you. Now it’s the early 1960s and Pearly seems to have morphed into a picture of respectability with a new alias, namely French fashion couturier Monsieur Jules (complete with mock-French accent to complement the image) and now manages a successful French fashion house in London. However, unbeknownst to Annette (Vanda Godsell) – the middle-aged lady responsible for organizing private fashion shows and so forth – ‘Monsieur Jules’ is still up to his old tricks and is using his office as a meeting point for his old gang of (mostly dim-witted) members, among them Sid Cooper (Graham Stark). When Pearly’s gang successfully rob a mail van which doesn’t only contain letters and parcels but also lots of money they are baffled when a police car tails them and the Bobbies then reclaim the stolen goods in the name of the law before driving off – without arresting Pearly’s gang! At first Pearly blames the failed robberies on the incompetence of his men and, under the guise of an interested client, visits a jewellery shop pretending to be interested in some bling for his Missus – only to secretly film the set-up of the shop with a camera device hidden in his briefcase. Later he assembles his men and shows them the film so they can learn the whereabouts of the safe and how to crack it, even going so far as to suggest that they all watch films like ‘Rififi’ and ‘The League of Gentlemen’ so his gang can learn a thing or two!
But despite an angry Pearly’s best efforts these ‘robberies’ by policemen continue and when he and his gang speculate as to who might be behind all this – after all, no real Bobby would let a criminal escape – they conclude that ‘Nervous’ O’Toole (Bernard Cribbins) and his gang of rival crooks must be behind the brazen deeds. However, when Pearly confronts O’Toole it emerges that his gang have also had their ‘profits’ severely cut for some time. Stories of policemen who followed them, then re-claimed the stolen goods without arresting any of the criminals sounds all too familiar… Pearly and O’Toole therefore reckon that the ‘policemen’ in question aren’t policemen at all but simply a new gang on the block hell-bent on taking over their turf! And right they are too because as it turns out, the ‘policemen’ are a bunch of Australian criminals now operating in London and are led by one Jack Coombes (Bill Kerr). Together with his accomplices, among them Reg Denton (Reg Lye) and Bluey May (Ed Devereaux), Jack’s ever more outrageous antics well and truly leave Pearly and all the other gangs out of pocket!
During a meeting of all the rival gangs Pearly suggests that in order to put a stop to the I.P.O. Mob, they must work together in an attempt to lay a trap for the ‘Bobby gang’ though of course, there’s still one question that makes Pearly and Co. nervous: how come these fake policemen always seem to know when a robbery is going to take place? Is there a snitch among Pearly’s or O’Tooles’ gang? Little does Pearly suspect that his latest Missus Valerie (Nanette Newman) is in with Coombes and thus she’s the actual informant…
Meanwhile, the sheer number of recent robberies have caught the attention of police inspector ‘Nosey’ Parker and his Assistant Commissioner (John Le Mesurier) – Parker is certain that Pearly is behind the robberies and when he has a ‘conversation’ with him he isn’t fooled by his new French identity for one minute. But when Pearly and his gang can all provide evidence that they were robbed by policemen who aren’t policemen, Inspector Parker realises that in order to save the reputation of the Force he too needs to collaborate with Pearly in order to bring the fake Bobbies to justice… What follows is a madcap scenario which sees a twist at the end that no one can anticipate…
Scripted by renowned British comedy writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (with John Antrobus in tow) and skilfully directed by Cliff Owen, THE WRONG ARM OF THE LAW is good old-fashioned entertainment and a hilarious crime caper from an era when London’s rival gangs were still polite to one another (did such a thing ever exist?). Peter Sellers and his ‘foe’ Lionel Jeffries are perfect as the two opposing poles who strike up some rapport due to circumstances and the rest of the cast are equally in top form, with Nanette Newman having everyone over.
Bonus material includes ‘John Antrobus Remembers The Wrong Arm Of The Law’, Behind the Scenes stills gallery and the original trailer.