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'Who Killed Lamb?' is a one off play from Yorkshire TV which has no
connection with Thriller but was transmitted immediately after 'Sign It
Death' in the second series schedule and was billed and fully networked
as an episode of the classic ATV series. While it bears a similar
running time [65 minutes], it uses a standalone title scene and theme
The premise is a straightforward detective story. The ostensibly affable Octavius Lamb has been murdered in his home and Stanley Baker, playing the part of Detective Chief Superintendent Jamieson, is determined to ascertain the killer's identity. As the narrative unfolds we learn that Lamb is not the saint as originally portrayed and in fact, had many enemies due to his 'second job' as a blackmailer.
There are many flashbacks in the story which add clarity to some scenes and the characters are well developed with some excellent performances - namely John Challis as a blackmailed biker and the mouth-wateringly tantalising Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Mrs Lamb.
The conclusion is reasonably satisfying and while 'Who Killed Lamb?' does not hit the highs as much as Thriller did, it remains an interesting curio, and a welcome addition to the complete series' box set.
At the time of its broadcast in 1974 this one-off drama was erroneously
billed as an episode of the excellent Thriller anthology that had just
finished its second series. That association has stuck but this is a
quite different production, made by the then Yorkshire Television.
Although this show had the same unusual 65 minute time span (designed to aid US sales) and was shot on video-tape it is very different in style to the suspense and fear of Thriller. This is essentially a detective-drama, not unlike more recent productions like Morse. Indeed like the latter it is set in Oxford. The detective in question here is the commanding Inspector Jamieson. He has been sent from New Scotland Yard to investigate the murder of local businessman Octavius Lamb. Lamb's murder seems inexplicable, as everyone seems to speak so fondly of him. However as Jamieson searches he finds that maybe Lamb was not such a benevolent figure - but who exactly would want to target him?
Like most detective dramas this is a whodunit. Such dramas are often star vehicles and this is certainly no exception with renowned film actor Stanley Baker making a rare and very strong appearance on TV. His character is an interesting one, efficient and forceful without being notably intellectual or eccentric like many other TV 'tecs. It might have been interesting to see how the character would have developed within a series but Baker would probably not have been available for a longer-running production. His presence will certainly be the chief focus for most viewers even if it had been considered. The cast generally is very strong, additionally featuring Peter Sallis, David Swift and John Challis alongside other familiar TV faces.
Flashbacks help to flesh out this story. There is some neat humour but this is fairly conventional entertainment, without any great highs and lows, although on the whole interesting enough. It has now emerged on DVD as an extra on the release of "Thriller" and is worth seeing as comparison with the series "proper" as well as on its own merits.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Typically proficient murder mystery (associated with but not actually forming part of the popular 1970s "Thriller" series) from the golden age of British TV: reasonably compelling and twist-laden, it is further elevated by the presence of Stanley Baker as the gruff yet unperturbed Police Superintendent on the case and the bouncy music played over the opening, intermissions and end credits. The plot deals with the killing of a family-and-business man who, by all accounts, is a symbol of respectability; however, the probing by Baker and his team (including the requisite bumbling and perennially hungry subordinate) unearths the proverbial can of worms. The murdered party Derek Francis is actually a blackmailer (living out his double life under a fictitious identity, using a modest and remote post-office as his checkpoint), but whose underhanded activities obviously aren't condoned by his immediate family. On the fateful night, his wife and son are out: she with her lover, having been denied a divorce by Francis, and he ostensibly at a cinema. Having been directed to the blackmailer's home via an anonymous note, the latter receives unexpected visits from two of his 'victims' involved in illicit relationships (incidentally, another is Francis' own manager at work who, unable to take the strain, slashes his wrists in the office restroom); while one of these crashes his bike on leaving, the other a lady eventually goes to the Police of her own accord. Though necessarily tortuous (where virtually nothing is what it seems), the various plot strands are nicely tied up by the end; alleviating the dour proceedings somewhat, however, is a healthy vein of dry British humor that runs through the whole show.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Apart from being included in the Brian Clemen's "Thriller" DVD set and
being roughly 65-70 minutes in length, there is nothing to connect this
terrific whodunit with the equally excellent "Thriller" series except
Derek Francis who got another chance to essay a villain par excellence
(he was also the slimy hotel manager in the murderous "Murder Motel"
from "Thrillers" season 5). In this one he plays jovial Octavious Lamb
for whom no one has an unkind word - as his secretary says "why poor
Mr. Lamb, why him"??? Why him indeed!! Inspector "don't call me sir"!!
Jamieson has been called to Oxford to investigate the case and soon
finds people 'a plenty with an axe to grind - starting with Mr. Humber
from accounts who is determined to pick up the rest of his "papers" and
won't let a minor thing such as a corpse stand in his way!!
Turns out that "our Mr. Lamb" has been leading a double life as a blackmailer who even goes out of his way to a little country post office to pick up his grubby money - all under an assumed name of course!!! There's a leather clad biker who is paying dearly for some "shocking" (by 1974 standards) pictures - as the nurse says "even his underwear was leather" (shock, horror!!) There is a school principal who has been paying for years for an indiscretion with his best friend's wife and Mary (Ingrid Hafner who was the distraught wife in "Dilemma" (1963)), the best friend's wife - Lamb has been bleeding her dry as well!! But it is all coming unstuck as two of the victims descend on his house to have it out with him - courtesy of a letter written by a "well wisher"!!
Lamb does have a family and they are pretty fed up with him: wife Madeline is having an affair with an old professor friend. There is even a bit of snobbery as when Jamieson asks Madeline if her husband went to Oxford she witheringly gives the impression of not being very impressed with the scholastic achievements of her self made husband. Superb Stanley Baker walks away with the show as the taciturn Detective Inspector who in his quiet way wraps up the case with no histrionics but he is almost matched by the very gorgeous Barbara Leigh Hunt (Jon Finch's unfortunate wife in "Frenzy") who is just class personified as the poor beleaguered Mrs. Lamb.
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