Michael McCarthy (director)
Network on Air (studio)
23 September 2019 (released)
24 September 2019
This little lost gem (ok, perhaps not a diamond) from the early 1950's stars Sydney Tafler in what was for him somewhat of an untypical role back then.
The writer/ director of this neatly rounded, but in all honesty hardly edge-of-the-seat whodunnit, is to an extent practically all but forgotten these days. Michael McCarthy was a pretty busy director in the 50's and is perhaps best known for THE TRAITOR with Donald Wolfit and his last bigger budget affair OPERATION AMSTERDAM (with Peter Finch and Eva Bartok). He was also one of the four directors (the others all becoming very well known, such as Hammer Films doyen Terence Fisher) who worked on the 50s TV series ASSIGNMENT FOREIGN LEGION which featured the absolute creme de la creme of British actors.
In MYSTERY JUNCTION we have Sydney Tafler who is ably supported by the likes of Barbara Murray and stalwart character actor Martin Benson. We have practically no location work - none, in fact, other than a few pick up shots of snowbound railway lines and depots. The action takes place on a not very convincing train and in an isolated railway station. Sydney plays successful crime-writer Larry Gordon who is attempting to get a bit of a snooze in a carriage he is sharing with the Miss Owen (Christine Silver). The inquisitive elderly lady just happens to be reading one of his novels and recognizes him from his picture and before you know it a dialogue ensues. Larry is a well-spoken thoroughly decent sort of chap and is only too happy to tell his admirer how one goes about writing a crime novel: “First of all you have an idea. Ideas arise out of the most unusual circumstances and you develop it”... and then shock horror we hear a blood curdling scream. We cut to a dark exterior shot of a fast going train at night then return to the carriage. Larry (dressed appropriately in a trench coat and trilby) and his ‘new assistant’ (who would be at home in an Agatha Christie novel) begin their investigations. They soon uncover a ticket collector who has been beaten unconscious, someone has stolen his uniform and one of the passengers has been killed. A couple of showgirl stowaways, the Dawn Sisters Pat (Barbara Murray) and Mabel are discovered also in the luggage department. Needless to say they 'toured' disastrously. “Isn't show business rather a precarious profession?” another passenger asks them. As they begin knocking on the windows of the other compartments someone waves Larry off with a gun! On telling this to the guard they return to the compartment where we discover that the man with the gun is in fact D.S. Peterson (Ewen Solon) who has with him the notorious criminal Steve Harding (Martin Benson). Harding is being taken up country to appear in court in a murder trial (it is hinted at that he'd 'talk').
It turns out the murdered man, Blake, was in fact another police officer. D.S. Peterson is now in a tricky situation for he has no back up and someone else (other than Harding) on the train is a murderer. He interviews everyone in the luggage compartment and as he can't let anyone out of his sight decides to alight with all of the passengers at the next station junction. There he will call the local police for back-up and handcuffs himself to Harding. To make matters worse we are in the middle of a blizzard. No sooner has the motley crew arrived than some mysterious person cuts the telephone wire… and with the train just departed they now are firmly stuck. Things are set to get worse the same person switches the lights off and there is a shooting. When they get the lights back on D.S. Peterson is dead. But did the killer really aim for Peterson or was Harding the intended victim? Harding, now abetted by two other shifty passengers who are members of his gang, decides to make a break for it but Larry tells him he'll be back. The weather conditions are impossible and Larry has another motive. On his return he forces our very smart author/cum detective to help him discover the identity of the person who wants him dead. It seems practically all of the passengers have a reason to get rid of Mr. Harding, in particular one Helen Mason (Pearl Cameron).
You can have a bit of fun trying to work things out for yourself. Larry Gordon, as well as being clever, is also modest: “I'm not a great writer - it just so happens my crime novels are popular with the public'. Martin Benson is quite convincing as the baddy despite being rather well spoken and David Davies adds his menacing bulk as oppo Benson while Charles Irwin hits the right note as crafty 'little worm' Hooker. This is an old Merton Park Studio job and has that 'feel' written all over it. It also has a bit of a surprise ending which doesn’t altogether tie up.