Victim As Birdwatcher (1966)

Film details

Synopsis

It is, in another direction, assurance once again that has enabled Granada to launch successfully a new 'off-beat thriller series,' The Corridor People. It is pretty impertinent at this date, after The Avengers, The Man From Uncle and Modesty Blaise, to hope to get away with yet another in a similar vein. And if Granada do bring it off, it is by the assurance with which they tackle it - theirs is, if you like, a successful confidence trick. The Corridor People is nearer Modesty Blaise than any of the others, and has derived its best touches from that film. Yet the first impression of it is not of its being derivative; it is of its knowing exactly where it is going and driving confidently there. And it is this confidence which carries it roughshod over the less inventive details and the weakness of the end of its story, so that only afterwards does one find oneself saying "Yes, but surely if..."

The confidence is reflected in the acting and direction alike. Elizabeth Shepherd has just the arrogant panache needed for the hansome ruthless villainess, and the director, David Boisseau, has fitted her up with a suitable extravagance not only of couture but also of weirdy props - those dark glasses, each of whose lenses lifts independently , is a typical farouche touch. And the whole script is dotted with such small but relevant strokes of fantasy. Opposite Miss Shepherd, John Sharp manages to make the fat, sly, secret service boss seem less of a deviation than in fact he is, implying a high intelligence beneath a low brow. Less happy I found his two watchdogs, Inspector Blood and Sergeant Hound, dressed alike in trench coats and black gloves, and about as corny in action as are their names. The producer will surely have to do something more subtle with them, if, as seems likely, they are to be permanencies in the cast.

Eddie Boyd's story begins brilliantly quietly with the birdwatching sequence and Syrie Van Epp's monstrous murder of the only English specimen of a rare species, and it works its way gradually, and often wittily, up to its outrageous climax. Here, to be frank, we needed a larger expense sheet, if the parade of the top national brass-army, church, law, politics - was to ring wholly true. But the recitation of the whole of that long passage which begins "Breathes there the man with soul so dead..." is just the kind of assured gesture which carries the day when the other elements are weakening. All in all - and rash though it is to prophesy the success of a series on a single episode I feel that The Corridor People has a good chance of establishing itself. It is not by any means my favourite form. But better a confident spoof than a straight piece which doesn't know where it is meant to be going.

TC Worsley, The Financial TImes, 31 August 1966

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