Inspector Bradley (Sebastian Shaw) of Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad is under pressure from his rather posh superior to get results and bring the leader of a local crime syndicate to justice. Mark McGill (played by Jack Hawkins) is just that criminal mastermind and has his own plans, including expanding his fairly tame tobacco and perfume smuggling business into stronger narcotics, which are obviously going to be more lucrative. McGill takes over a river-front property, owned by a rather senile old man who constantly plays the same tune over and over on his equally decrepit violin, and sets up some bigger deals. However, things start getting out of hand and before you can say: ‘It’s a fair cop, gov’!’ murders have been committed and the shit really hits the rapidly spinning thing.
McGill’s partner in crime, Ronnie Perryman, doesn’t like the way things are going and is done away with by the big man himself, with only the old musician as a witness to the act, hence he has to be silenced too. Before you know it, Ronnie’s sister comes looking for him, wanting an explanation for his sudden disappearance. McGill blames the cops and their heavy-handed nature for Ronnie’s demise and thereby convinces Ann to help him in his nefarious operations. Ann quickly becomes a pawn in a dangerous game being played out in the back-alleys and warehouses of London between McGill’s gang and the Flying Squad.
Edgar Wallace was a well-known mystery/crime writer during the first quarter of the 20th Century and supposedly wrote over 170 novels and more than 950 short stories. It’s not surprising then that some of his work has been turned into movies or at the very least influenced many films over the years. This particular film appears to be based on his 1928 book, The Flying Squad, but I’m not one hundred per cent sure of that.
To be honest, the story isn’t particularly sophisticated, especially not by today’s standards, but it manages to entertain and hold the attention, even if some of the dialogue feels very unreal – I’m sure police and criminals of that time didn’t speak as posh as they do here! It’s all very civilized, with even the murders being committed out of sight or in such a way that leaves a lot to interpretation.
One thing that is ahead of its time here is Inspector Bradley’s forward-looking way of crime enforcement; he seems to be the only person on the force who really knows his stuff and cleverly monitors the smaller fish to get to the bigger criminals.
Unfortunately there’s very little sense of drama and the film is very theatrical in nature with pretty much all the scenes feeling set-bound, even though a few are supposed to be on location in the countryside. However, there is some humour in the mix and one of the film’s highlights involves a fairly prolonged court room scene involving a drunk arguing with the judge when he’s being booked for vagrancy. There are even a couple of fairly cool fight scenes between our dynamic inspector and various ruffians who set upon him. We’re not talking about The Raid level of cool, but for the time these would have excited the likes of my parents who probably saw this when it originally came out.
Overall The Flying Squad is a fairly fun film that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s nicely shot and the picture and sound quality here are pretty decent for a film of this age. Although, talking of sound, there’s some rather strange music used throughout, which sounds like an old music grinder; I wasn’t convinced of its suitability. It’s also worth a watch for Jack Hawkins, who comes across as very charismatic as the rather sophisticated ‘bad guy’ and it’s easy to see why he became such a big star in later years.
Reviewer: Justin Richards
Edgar Wallace Presents…The Flying Squad has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Network Distributing who are, to their credit, currently releasing lots of these rarer British film titles.
The extras on the disc are confined to an extensive stills gallery, which includes lobby cards, various photographic portraits of the cast and some nice ‘behind the scenes’ shots from the film. A pretty impressive collection, it must be said.