The Edgar Wallace MysteriesWritten by Matteo Sedazzari
© Words Matteo Sedazzari
Loosely based on the works of writer Edgar Wallace (1st April 1875 – 10th February 1932) who covered many genres from crime to historical fiction, and began his career writing songs and poems at the close of the 19th century before establishing himself as a fiction writer. He even worked on the screen play for King Kong in 1932 before his unexpected death. If he had lived it looked like he would have broken into the US.
However, although selling over 50 million copies of his work, Wallace has never been considered a great British writer, but nearly 30 years after his death his work was in demand again and Merton Park Studios, a film production company based in South Wimbledon, founded in 1930 and dissolved in 1967, seized the opportunity. A film company that specialised in crime, police and murder mystery films, and in the 50s and 60s, they moved into a film series Scotland Yard, The Scales of Justice and The Edgar Wallace Mysteries.
The Edgar Wallace Mysteries ran from September 1960 to October 1965 as the second feature to the main film in cinemas across the UK during this time. The move to TV started in the late 60s with ITV, and through to the 90s with Channel 4, and during their production they were shipped overseas, mainly to the US. In addition, the whole collection is now available on DVD. All of Wallace’s stories were brought up to date, so when first aired they were contemporary of the time. Moreover as the series progressed, Wallace was used as a marketing tool only and the films had very little if anything to do with his work, and towards the end his name was dropped all together. Like all good TV shows, a catchy theme tune is paramount and Michael Carr’s eerie note picking tune "Man of Mystery”, charted at number five in 1960 with The Shadows. The tone is set as a bust of Edgar Wallace spins round in smoke , the camera slowly zooms away and the mystery starts.
Edgar Wallace Mysteries are British film noir, with smoke filled jazz bars, femme fatales, double crossing crooks, nervous witnesses and heroes. Tense and sometimes complex plots, ranging from whodunits, robberies, horse race fixing, blackmail, prison breaks , forgery and other such like crimes. Featuring many familiar faces from the British cinema and TV, some already established actors, others at the start of their career, such as Bernard Lee (the original M from the James Bond films), Alfred Burke (Public Eye) Harry H Corbett (Steptoe and Son) Hazel Court (The Masque of the Red Death) John Thaw ( The Sweeney and Inspector Morse) as well as directors John Llewellyn Moxey (Murder She Wrote), and Gerard Glaister (who would go on to produce Colditz and Howards End).
Due to the budget, most of the exterior was shot around London, that’s fine, as it is interesting to see the ‘old smoke’ in the early sixties, and how people dressed. Being post war Britain, as the films do incite this, the police (apart from the odd one) are the upholder of the law, and to be trusted, unlike anyone from overseas featured in the films. However that was the political and social landscape of the times, and doesn’t deter from the true entertainment value of Edgar Wallace Mysteries, as they are enthralling, captivating and entertaining, and any fan of film noir, classic British Cinema and old crime related films, will love these. On a personal note, there is a mystery for me, one film entitled The Man at the Carlton Tower (1961) features Geoffrey Frederick as Detective Sergeant Pepper, and I was wondering if a certain young and then unknown Paul McCartney watched this film in a cinema in Liverpool and thought “that is a great name, I will use that one day”. Watch this space, I will find the truth, as happens with all the endings in The Edgar Wallace Mysteries.
The Edgar Wallace Mysteries available from Network TV