Colonel March of Scotland Yard

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Colonel March of Scotland Yard
"Colonel March of Scotland Yard".jpg
Genre Crime drama, Mystery
Directed by Cy Endfield
Terence Fisher
Arthur Crabtree
Bernard Knowles
and others
Starring Boris Karloff
Ewan Roberts
Composer(s) Edwin Astley (9 episodes)
Philip Green (1 episode)
John Lanchbery
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 26
Production
Producer(s) Hannah Weinstein
Cinematography Lionel Banes
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Fountain Films in association with Panda Productions
Distributor Official Films
Peter Rodgers Organization
Release
Original network ITV
Original release 24 September 1955 – 17 March 1956

Colonel March of Scotland Yard is a 1950s British television series based on author John Dickson Carr's (aka Carter Dickson) fictional detective Colonel March from his book The Department of Queer Complaints (1940).[1] Carr was a mystery author who specialised in locked-room whodunnits and other 'impossible' crimes: murder mysteries that seemed to defy possibility.[2] The stories of the television series followed in the same vein with Detective March solving cases that baffle Scotland Yard and the British police. The department itself is sometimes referred to as "D3". Boris Karloff starred as Colonel March.

Production[edit]

The series was made at Southall Studios in Middlesex, England (and, later, Nettlefold Studios in Walton-on-Thames, England) and was produced by Fountain Films for ITV. In July, 1952, Karloff and his wife Evelyn sailed to England, where Karloff filmed three different pilot episodes to be shown to TV executives. While awaiting a decision on more episodes, the three pilots were combined into a 1953 feature film called Colonel March Investigates. In 1953, Karloff returned to England to film 23 more episodes, making a total of 26.

The Colonel March series premiered in 1955 on Associated Television (ITV London, weekends) with a total of 26 episodes. (It was broadcast on 26 consecutive Saturday evenings from 24 September 1955 until 17 March 1956.) It began running in the United States in February 1956, five months after British viewers had seen it.[3][not in citation given]

The show starred Boris Karloff as the urbane, tweed-wearing, eye-patched sleuth. No reason was ever given for the wearing of the patch. Other regular actors included Ewan Roberts as Inspector Ames of Scotland Yard and Eric Pohlmann as Inspector Goron of the Paris Sûreté. (In the episode "The Second Mona Lisa", Pohlmann played a Middle Eastern character called The Emir.) Roberts' Scottish accent grows stronger as the series progresses, from plummy English in the first dozen episodes to full-on Scottish burr for the second dozen.[clarification needed]

The opening title sequence showed Colonel March taking off his coat in his office and writing the title of each episode in a book. This then dissolves to an image of an object from within the following story, what Alfred Hitchcock would call a MacGuffin, a fairly unimportant plot device that starts the story rolling and/or keeps it moving along. Often it's a murder weapon or an item of clothing. Sometimes its relevance is a mystery until it is revealed later in the episode. Other episodes, such as in "The Headless Hat", show the item that the episode is named after.

The episode "The Talking Head" uses the complete version of the original theme tune during the end credits. It was usually truncated and faded up whilst some way through. The show's slightly mysterious and threatening theme tune was changed for the episodes "Error at Daybreak" and "The Silver Curtain" to a piece of jaunty, faster paced music that had originally been used in previous episodes to accompany shots of a busy city.

Other guest actors in the series include Alan Wheatley, Christopher Lee, Patrick Barr, Hugh Griffith, Marne Maitland (twice), Joan Sims, Anthony Newley, Patricia Owens, George Coulouris, Anton Diffring, Martin Benson, Zena Marshall, Mary Parker and Robert Brown. The episode "Death and the Other Monkey" features a small acting part by future film director John Schlesinger as a Dutch ship's captain. The episode "Error at Daybreak" features a performance from the then 10-year-old actor Richard O'Sullivan who later went on to star in Robin's Nest and several other ITV series.

Critical reception[edit]

In Britain, the series was initially evaluated in the larger context of the programming of the newly launched ITV: "If there were only something of signifiant badness, then one could at least take a hatchet to it. But who could take a hatchet to Wilson, Keppel, and Betty, stars of Saturday night's variety programme, or to the adventures of 'Colonel March of Scotland Yard', the intellectual content of which is the nearest thing to a hole I have ever seen?"[4]

Current availability[edit]

As of July 2016, all 26 episodes were available for streaming on the UK Amazon Prime platform. As of September 2016, the series was being screened on UK television channels Talking Pictures TV and London Live. As of February 2018, the U.S. TV channel Decades occasionally airs this at various times.

As of May 2018, the series airs nightly on The Classic TV channel (515) on Pluto TV.

List of episodes[edit]

Episode[clarification needed] Title First London ITV Transmission
(ABC, London)
Transmission in the Midlands (ATV, Midlands) Archive
1 The Sorcerer 1 October 1955 29 February 1956 16 mm
2 The Abominable Snowman 8 October 1955 7 March 1956 35 mm
3 Present Tense 15 October 1955 15 March 1956 16 mm
4 At Night All Cats Are Gray 22 October 1955 21 March 1956 16 mm
5 The Case of the Kidnapped Poodle 5 November 1955 28 March 1956[contradictory] 16 mm
6 The Invisible Knife 19 October 1955 28 March 1956 16 mm
7 The Strange Event at Roman Hall 4 February 1956 2 April 1956 16 mm
8 The Headless Hat 12 November 1955 11 April 1956 16 mm
9 The Second Mona Lisa 26 November 1955 25 April 1956 35 mm
10 Death in Inner Space 10 December 1955 9 May 1956 35 mm
11 The Talking Head 17 December 1955 16 May 1956 16 mm
12 The Devil Sells His Soul 7 January 1956 6 June 1956 16 mm
13 Murder is Permanent 14 January 1956 13 June 1956 35 mm
14 The Silent Vow 21 January 1956 20 June 1956 16 mm
15 Death and the Other Monkey 28 January 1956 27 June 1956 35 mm
16 The Stolen Crime 11 February 1956 4 July 1956 35 mm
17 The Silver Curtain 18 February 1956 10 July 1956 35 mm
18 Error at Daybreak 25 February 1956 17 July 1956 35 mm
19 Hot Money 3 March 1956 24 July 1956 16 mm
20 The Missing Link 19 November 1955 31 July 1956 35 mm
21 The Case of the Misguided Missal 3 December 1955 7 August 1956 16 mm
22 The Deadly Gift 24 December 1955 14 August 1956 16 mm
23 The Case of the Lively Ghost 31 December 1955 21 August 1956 16 mm
24 Death in the Dressing Room 10 March 1956 28 August 1956 35 mm[5]
25 The New Invisible Man 17 March 1956 4 September 1956 35 mm
26 Passage at Arms 24 September 1955[6] 22 February 1956 35 mm

Availability on home video[edit]

Eight episodes (only) of the series have been released to home video by Alpha Video.[when?]

The region 2 DVD release of the 1970 Karloff film Cauldron of Blood (aka Blind Man's Bluff) includes the episode "The Silver Curtain" as an extra.

All 26 episodes are available to stream on Amazon Prime.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chibnall, Stephen; McFarlane, Brian (2009). The British 'B' Film. Macmillan Publishers. p. 223. ISBN 9781844575749. 
  2. ^ McKinty, Adrian (29 January 2014). "The top 10 locked-room mysteries". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 December 2017. 
  3. ^ TV.com. "Colonel March of Scotland Yard". TV.com. Retrieved 2014-05-09. 
  4. ^ Bernard Levin, "Food for Thought on Lack of 'Meat': ITV Serves 25 Hours of Trifling Fare", The Manchester Guardian (26 September 1955): 14.
  5. ^ Held by the National Film & Television Archive.[citation needed]
  6. ^ "Radio and TV Programmes: Saturday and Sunday", The Manchester Guardian (24 September 1955): 11.

External links[edit]