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Playback is the very best of the Edgar Wallace crime films shot at Merton in the early 60s. The taut script is beautifully acted by Barry Foster as a young policeman who becomes involved with a glamorous German woman in London - a standout performance by the fabulous Margit Saad. It's surprising Saad did not have a major career in British films ... she is sensational in this 60 minute low budget thriller, so imagine how great she would have been in a major movie! Also in support are Nigel Green (the Prince Charles lookalike) as a dangerous casino owner, and a very young Dinsdale Landen as foster's fellow copper. If you only see one of the many Edgar Wallace series, make it this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Most of the Merton Park-Edgar Wallace adaptations from the early 1960's
are police procedurals, whodunit and how (the 'locked room' plot turns
up a number of times). This entry is more character-driven, and given
an intriguing twist by being told in flashback as a man waits to hear
the jury's verdict at his trial.
(Spoilers) Dave Hollis is a friendly young copper who has hopes of becoming a detective. Unfortunately he has character flaws, being too willing to be distracted from duty by a pretty face (and, let's be honest, Margit Saad is quite distracting) and a weakness for roulette. These combine to get him in a situation where he has to take the most desperate measures and doesn't see he's being used until it is far too late. The climax of the film gives a grim reminder of the punishment for murder in the UK half a century ago. (End spoilers)
As I said, the film is character-driven, low on action but high in human interest and suspense. I was reminded of Georges Simenon's novels where the mind of a man in relation to his world and the factors that shaped him are slowly revealed. These cheap second-features from Merton Park are not 'great' or 'classic' films but occasionally they come up with something really different that still has considerable dramatic impact, and this is one very good example.
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