Sunday, 22 January 2012


Exploring British supporting films of the 1950's and 1960's might not reveal much art but it can be fun. The series of 30 minute mysteries made at Merton Park were as much a part of my childhood cinema going as were the Edgar Wallace series (see previous post) of my late teenage years. The series consisted of thirty-nine films, each introduced and narrated by crime novelist and criminologist Edgar Lustgarten. Lustgarten (left) is perhaps best remembered today for being the direct inspiration for the "criminologist" narrator of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. The series is of particular interest for some of the location shots taken in and around 1950's London.

SCOTLAND YARD was also the training ground for Ken Hughes who would go on to direct some interesting crime B movies (JOE MACBETH, THE LONG HAUL etc) and the much admired THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE before graduating to much bigger fare with CROMWELL and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. Hughes directed the first half dozen or so of the series and two of my particular favourites. I have a mildly personal interest in THE BLAZING CARAVAN(1953) as the plot (at least the murder method itself) is obviously inspired by the murderer Arthur Rouse. My mother always swore that she had met Rouse just prior to the murder he committed and that he was her husband's cousin - despite much research I can find nothing to corroborate her claims. Better is THE DARK STAIRWAY (1954) which is virtually a mini film noir, full of shadows and other noir trappings which enliven this little murder tale set in the murky underworld of London's Soho alleys and drinking clubs.

When the series ended the format had been so successful that it was revived as THE SCALES OF JUSTICE which ran for thirteen episodes with Lustgarten again as the on screen narrator of stories inspired by murder trials. In 1971 Lustgarten was found dead from a heart attack in Marylebone Library, London. Some time earlier his mistress had been found dead in a bath in his flat, apparently a suicide.

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

Totally unfamiliar with this series! It's also good to know there was a definite model for "The Criminologist" in ROCKY HORROR. Crime may not pay but crime does PLAY! We need more crime films to keep the day spicy!