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J. Lee Thompson
James Robertson Justice
From the point of view of filming, this movie is a masterpiece. The London Smog takes on a character of its own. Characters appear and disappear mysteriously, sounds are muffled, uncertain violence is ever present. The Street Band squawks and groans eerily, its members looming distorted as nightmares from Heironymus Bosch.
For those unfamiliar with Marjorie Allingham, her successful detective series featured Albert Campion, a colourless gentleman who merged with his background. The filmmakers, as has been stated, successfully lost him in the "Smoke". The truly attractive character from Allingham's series is the Police detective, Charles Luke. Charlie is tall, handsome, puppy-like and incredibly dynamic. His curly hair never stays put, He never stands still, he talks with his hands, his voice is full of expression. What a great character to play! This is where the screen adaptation seriously falls down. Alec Clune appears to be making no attempt to represent Charlie Luke. He has obviously not read the book, which is a pity! The result is that the colourful Charlie is reduced to a character as grey and insipid as Albert Campion. It is a real disappointment to Charlie's fans!
On the other hand, the performances by Tony Wright as the psychopath Jack Havoc, Laurence Naismith as the courageous Canon and Bernard Miles as the Gang Leader are wonderful, while Beatrice Varley as the sinister Lucy Cash is Magnificent.
The most unforgettable line is this description of Lucy Cash - "When she walks down the street curtains tremble, blinds creep down and keys turn stealthily in locks."
FOOTNOTE- Smog is the name of a combination of fog and coal dust, common in London until the air was cleaned up.
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