An attractive blond newspaper reporter, a veteran male crime journalist, and a desperate criminal with a gun and who guards a secret jealously constitute the main characters in the Kraft Mystery Theater episode "The Desperate Men." Peter Maxwell directed this hour-long episode, and James Eastwood wrote the teleplay. This formulaic mystery takes place at a small village near an ancient castle, Marley Castle, where nothing of consequence ever occurs. It seems that a murderous thug has stashed a pouch of valuable jewels in the castle. An innocent bystander stumbles onto him and the thug kills him. Of course, all that Maxwell lets us see in the opening minutes is the innocent bystander. Maxwell doesn't bring in the killer until later on in the story. According to the fellow who runs the local pub, nothing ever happens in the village where the protagonist has chosen to spend his holiday. Curtis visits Marley Castle and runs into Carol Bourne (Jill Ireland of "Death Wish 2") who has the key to the castle that the caretaker entrusted her with.
What neither knows about the other is that Curtis writes for a newspaper called "The Record" and is known as Fleet Street's most famous crime reporter, while Carol writes for the East Sussex Times. As it turns out, a historic, 150-pound, stone cannon ball has vanished from the premises and become the object of a search. After Carol sells the story about the missing cannon ball to a competing national newspaper, Curtis decides to snoop around in the castle. Carol accompanies him, and they find more than a cannon ball during their search of Marley Castle. They find a corpse in the castle; the unfortunate fellow stumbled onto something that he should not have seen and paid with his life. Apparently, the missing cannon ball kept the dead man pinned underwater in a reservoir inside the castle.
Curtis learns a little about the murder victim from the next door neighbor. He was an amateur archaeologist. The next door neighbor tells Curtis about the dead man's boat. Later, he locate the sunken boat. Carol suspects that the dead man was killed because he saw something that he shouldn't have seen and she confides her suspicions in Curtis. Naturally, Curtis and Carol embark on an amorous relationship. They surprise the killer at night after he has excavated his valuables from the castle. Curtis and the gunmen scuffle briefly and he shoots the lantern out of Curtis' hand. During their close-quarters combat, Curtis inflicts pain on the villain. The villain cannot descend by the spiral stairs because he has injured his leg. He decides to make Curtis his errand boy and hold Carole hostage. Curtis buys the supplies and devises a little surprise for the criminal.
Happily, the castle that they investigate is an actual castle and not so ersatz castle mocked up in a cramped studio. Well, there is one scene that could have been shot in a studio. Interestingly, when our hero is sent to fetch food and supplies for the criminal, the place where he purchases the supplies has a Kraft food display. Indeed, most of this episode occurs at real-life locations. William Hartnell is appropriately menacing as the armed thug, and Charles Gray has a small supporting role.
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