In the 1970s it was possible for a small regional company to produce a modest six-part thriller on a limited budget and get it broadcast nationally, without having to submit it to WGBH in Boston and various other "focus groups" who would interfere every step of the way. It was a different world.
That's not to say that The Capone Investment is a work of genius, but it's a solid enough series, which kept the interest when originally broadcast, and if it now seems a bit dated, naff and predictable, well, it is almost forty years old.
The long and the short of it is that tough cop Reaygo is called in to investigate a murder. One murder becomes two, two become three and so forth. it's a wonder that by the end of the sixth half hour segment anyone is left standing. Reaygo is assisted by a man from DI6 (Peter Sallis) and it eventually transpires that everyone is hot on the trail of sixty million pounds that Al Capone had hidden in England when things got too hot in Cicero. Yeah, right, but it's as good a McGuffin as any. The third murder, and the first we actually see, is of shoe-factory owner (and, it seems, master criminal) Conrad "William Tell" Phillips. Prime suspect is his hot-headed son John Thaw. There is no reason for any of Thaw's hot-headed actions throughout the series other than his being hot-headed. Thaw does his best in a crassly-written part, but swiftly becomes a bore. Other lead characters are played by Richard Coleman, looking a bit tubbier than I remembered, as a pub landlord and Roland Curram, looking bizarrely like Martin Landau, who has a penchant for smoking through a cigarette holder, wears white jeans, Peter Wyngarde shirts and is called Bunty. I think we're supposed to infer something about Bunty. I can't imagine for a moment what it is. The distaff side is represented largely by Jill Dixon, who merely irritates, and Isabel Dean, who is more likable but is marginalised by the testosterone emanated by the bluff Glyn Owen as Reaygo, the hot-headed John Thaw and...er...Peter Sallis. Sallis is, in fact, moderately interesting, and one couldn't help but wonder during the first few episodes whether his character was being set up for a series of his own. Glyn Owen plays the part the same way he plays every part. He has a certain charisma but you can see that whilst he'd be offered the lead in a series of this scale, the bigger projects would elude him.
Although the narrative is unconvincing the series is reasonably gripping (although watching episode after episode the theme music gets on your nerves). Plot holes gape - at one point Thaw hot-headedly abducts Coleman in order to pump him for information. They drive off, but by the time we see either again the incident is forgotten, and not referred to. The series is shot on video with filmed inserts, the worst of both worlds. The cheap sets are reminiscent of the Crossroads motel, and the blue screen while Owen and his oppo are driving about doesn't even nearly match the areas they're driving through in long-shot.
But for all that, it's all rather jolly. The revelation of the identity of the murder does not, alas, come as much of a surprise, but the climactic scenes at a village cricket match are well-handled, although the ending is very abrupt. A throwback to the days when it was possible to make a modest series with no pretension, aiming merely to tell an exciting (up to a point) story as well as possible. Give it a go.
But not all in one sitting.
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