Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

August 6, 2020

MURDER ON APPROVAL (UK, 1955), starring Tom Conway

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:53 am
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MURDER ON APPROVAL (UK, 1955), released in Britain as BARBADOS QUEST

starring Tom Conway as Tom “Duke” Martin, a role he played after this in the 1956 feature BREAKAWAY

directed by Bernard Knowles, produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman

murder on approval

Though Tom Conway played a variety of roles in his career, he is probably best known as THE FALCON at RKO in the 1940’s, and the various detective roles he played after that which traded on his Falcon fame and persona. He also played detective Mark Saber on television and was a superb Sherlock Holmes on radio, taking over for Basil Rathbone for the 1946-47 season, paired with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Conway is the equal of Rathbone, which is high praise indeed coming from someone who considers the Rathbone/Bruce team as one of the all-time great screen detective/sidekick pairings.

The two films Conway made in the UK in 1955 as detective Tom “Duke” Martin were the actor’s final go-round as an above-the-title star turn riding on the wave of his work as The Falcon. Interestingly, the Baker-Berman production team here later were behind THE SAINT television series, starring Roger Moore. Perhaps if Tom Conway had been 15-20 years earlier, he could have landed that part. Clearly, the choice of Conway was Saint-related…. he was the brother of the best-known Saint film actor, George Sanders;  he played the Falcon, who was not unlike The Saint, in many popular and well-loved films; he played The Saint on radio, replacing Vincent Price in a number of episodes. He still radiates that same Saint/Falcon class and wit, though in more mature form here.

MURDER ON APPROVAL is a tight (67 minutes) and entertaining British crime programmer, which moves quickly, has a unique plot situation involving rare stamps and stamp counterfeiting….it’s not a murder mystery really, though there are people killed in the final third. Most of all, it benefits from the seemingly effortless wit and charm and elegance of star TOM CONWAY, who is teamed with a comedic ex-con sidekick Barney, played wonderfully by Michael Balfour, who fortunately returned in the second film in this series.

If you enjoyed any of Conway’s post-Falcon detective films or television work and you enjoy classic B&W British crime programmers, then you are sure to enjoy MURDER ON APPROVAL.

The good news is that it’s available in a beautiful print (under its UK title); the bad news is that it is divided into five parts, though that is not much of a hurdle to overcome.

Enjoy!

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If you are a Tom Conway fan (and who isn’t!), there is a review of his NORMAN CONQUEST (1953) UK detective film elsewhere on this blog. Just use the search box to find it.

Also, the serious Beatles fan will know that the director of MURDER ON APPROVAL, Bernard Knowles, was involved with the making of MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Perhaps he was the “professional” kept on the set to somehow bring the surreal stoner ideas of the boys to fruition on film. I’ll have to research that more….I do have a book on the making on MMT in the garage somewhere, which I have not looked at for 20 years. I’ll have to refresh my memory.

 

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