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Norman Conquest was the improbably named hero of some fifty light-hearted, tongue-in cheek-thrillers, penned for about thirty years from the late 1930s by the prolific Edwy Searles Brooks under the pseudonym Berkeley Gray. A desperado of the Simon Templar school, Conquest was aided and abetted by his partner Joy "Pixie" Everard, while Inspector Bill Williams was the Claud Eustace Teal figure, always on the verge of at last getting Conquest behind bars, only to see the chance slip inescapably through his hands.
Now period pieces and largely neglected, (though BBC radio attempted a revival in 1998, adapting several of the stories with Christopher Cazenove as Conquest and Bonnie Langford as Joy), the books were at the height of their popularity when this film was made. There was clearly an assumption on the part of the producers that many of the putative audience would be familiar with the leading characters and stock situations, such as Norman's penchant for dangerous blondes, which Sid James as Williams teases Pixie about, while the outlandish business of Conquest accidentally bringing down the carrier pigeon whilst playing golf is entirely typical of Brooks' wacky plots.
Star Tom Conway, then pushing fifty, was, however, far older than the character in the book, so anyone expecting non-stop action was in for a disappointment. He gives his usual affable, charming performance though and it's perplexing how this most essentially British of actors is occasionally delineated as just another imported American star.
The convoluted plot, including the murder of a member of a Soviet trade delegation involving the seductive Nadia (Eva Bartok), diamond smuggling, and a Nazi war criminal could have been handled more efficiently, but Conway's charm and character actors like Joy Shelton and Richard Wattis help it along.
Production values are slightly above average for a British second feature of the day. Co-producer Albert Fennell of course later became famous as producer, and with Brian Clemens, the major creative influence on the filmed series of THE AVENGERS. It would be interesting to know if Brooks' tales of the earlier crime fighting duo of Conquest and Pixie inspired him at some level.
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