Screenplay: Kenneth Hayles
Starring: John Bentley, Hy Hazell, Patrick Holt, Eddie Byrne, Joyce Carey, Kay Callard
Running Time: 60 mins
BBFC Classification: U
Jenny (Hy Hazel) is a reporter who is in something of a career rut, covering social events and fashion trends for the Sunday Star newspaper that she works for. She keeps trying to persuade her boss to allow her to cover a juicy story, but he seems to agree with her chauvinistic newspaper boyfriend, Mike Billings (John Bentley), that she’s better sticking to what she’s good at – fashion and gossip. So when the news room’s new copy boy tells her about his aunt’s suspicions regarding a wealthy local woman going missing Jenny is determined to make the story her own. The problem is the story has been assigned to her boyfriend and he’s not happy with her tagging along with him, and tries to misdirect her whenever he can.
When the body of the missing woman is found near a train station various people’s alibis are called into question, including that of the woman’s artist husband, Henry Crossley. It soon becomes apparent that our roving reporters must learn to bury their differences and put their heads together in order to determine who the killer is.
Directed by future Hammer stalwart Terence Fisher (Dracula, The Mummy), Stolen Assignment is a good example of the sort of frothy, light-hearted, crime thriller that Hollywood and Britain were churning out during the 50s and 60s. This is the sort of film where the press have a rather schizophrenic relationship with the police (one minute they’re chummy, and the next they are quite fractious), and where hard and soft-boiled dialogue trips off the main protagonist’s tongues with regular rapidity; for example, when asked by an egotistical suspect if she wants to write a piece on him, Jenny responds: ‘Yes, a post – mortem!’
Both the lead characters are played with conviction and humour by Bentley and Hazell, and the level of acting, in general, is very good. It was great to see a film from this era that was obviously making a point about sexual equality and Jenny makes for a feisty heroine who is more than a match against most of her slower-witted male colleagues. In fact throughout the film’s brief running time there is a constant battle of the sexes being played out between Jenny and her cocky beau, Mike, who frequently patronises her. The fact that Jenny rises to the challenge and delivers up the murderer, with little help from her less clued-on boyfriend, is satisfying to the modern viewer more used to gender equality.
Once again Network have done a great job presenting the film in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements, although the version I have played out full screen, but that might have been intentional. Regardless the sound and picture quality are both good.
Stolen Assignment has been released on DVD and is being distributed by Network Distributing who are currently releasing lots of these rarer British film titles, many of which are pretty decent. Sadly, there were no extras on the disc that I reviewed.