AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 70 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Super agent Dick Barton heads for the seaside with his friends Snowey and Jock. However, their plans for a relaxing time are soon disrupted. Some attempts on his life occur, then he receives a package actually meant for somebody else – some fish with smuggled goods inside. Dick befriends a woman whose boyfriend is actually working for the villains, villains who have something far bigger than just smuggling planned…
A slump in the British film industry forced Hammer into bankruptcy and the company went into liquidation in 1937 to be resurrected in 1947 and make some film versions of radio serials. The exploits of Dick Barton, a kind of more gentlemanly James Bond, thrilled millions on radio, and Hammer made three films starring the character. This first effort is rather ineptly made, with mismatching shots, silent scenes, badly looped dialogue, and some of the most poorly staged fight scenes I’ve certainly seen for quite a while. It is kind of fun though. Because it’s played mostly for laughs – apparently because of the radio programme’s popularity with kids – the shoddy aspects don’t seem to matter too much. The plot eventually reveals a grandiose plan to contaminate Britain’s water supply but virtually the whole film takes place in a seaside village. There’s little suspense for most of the time, with even the constant attempts on Dick’s life handled for mostly comic effect, but there’s a decent climactic set-to in the back of a truck being driven by a small boy, a boy who actually reads Dick Barton comics.
Introducing himself at one point as: “Barton, Dick Barton”, our hero, as played by Don Stannard, is a likeable chap if a little staid. His two assistants are just fools but then again so are the villains except for Dr Casper, who is genuinely sinister. The constant larking around gets a little tiresome but there are some genuinely funny bits. “There’s a dark cloud hanging over us”, says one guy to his wife. The reply? “That’s not a dark cloud hanging over us. The ceiling needs cleaning”. That’s about the level of most of the comedy and indeed the film. Harmless, kid-friendly stuff which you can’t help but like a little. The music mostly seems just plonked in there and you don’t even hear much of the iconic theme to the radio serial by Charles Williams Devil’s Gallop, which is still probably familiar to some even you don’t know what it’s from. This is an often clumsy, even at times stupid movie, and I find it hard to believe that it was successful enough to spawn two sequels, but it is rather likeable really, and I certainly didn’t regret watching it.