Edward Chapman

Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It (1941, Walter Forde)

For the final Inspector Hornleigh picture, the filmmakers go propaganda. They do have some fun with it—the film’s first sequence is Gordon Harker and Alastair Sim on an army base, undercover as aged privates, investigating scrounging. It’s all played for laughs, sort of wasting some of the running time before Harker and Sim can get onto the bigger case (Nazi spies).

Unfortunately, the Nazi spy part of the film is never particularly interesting. Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It feels like a sequel where no one involved with the previous two worked on it (though they did). Harker’s character spends multiple scenes impersonating other people, hiding his identity as a police inspector—it’s as though the filmmakers decided to make that method his gimmick. As for Sim, as the bumbling sidekick, he has slightly less to do. The film’s rather disjointed; there’s no nice transition between the army base part and the remainder (in fact, I’m pretty sure the two of them are AWOL).

Forde does a fine job directing, even though he doesn’t have much interesting to shoot. The conclusion has a lot of potential but it’s too short; there’s no time for it.

There’s some bad acting too. Percy Walsh is Harker’s rival—apparently, Harker’s the joke of Scotland Yard and just doesn’t realize it, which also goes for making the film’s place in the series perplexing. The rivalry is lame and Walsh is awful.

So’s Raymond Huntley.

It’s got some charm, but it’s a worn out franchise.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Walter Forde; screenplay by J.O.C. Orton and Val Guest, based on a story by Frank Launder and characters created by Hans Wolfgang Priwin; director of photography, Jack E. Cox; edited by R.E. Dearing; produced by Edward Black; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Gordon Harker (Inspector Hornleigh), Alastair Sim (Sergeant Bingham), Phyllis Calvert (Mrs. Wilkinson), Edward Chapman (Mr. Blenkinsop), Charles Oliver (Dr. Wilkinson), Raymond Huntley (Dr. Kerbishley), Percy Walsh (Inspector Blow), David Horne (Commissioner), Peter Gawthorne (Colonel), Wally Patch (Sergeant Major), Betty Jardine (Daisy) and O.B. Clarence (Professor Mackenzie).


Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday (1939, Walter Forde)

Gordon Harker was fifty-five when Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday came out. It’s very strange to see a film from this period with someone his age the lead in a comedic mystery. I’ve never seen him in anything and I can’t remember seeing Alastair Sim in anything but I know Sim’s name. I spent the entire film trying to picture Harker as Scrooge, not thinking the bumbling sidekick could have been Sim.

What’s also interesting Harker’s brilliant detective’s fallibility. He makes mistakes, overlooks clues, thinks about things and even tries to work them out with other people’s help. In short, he’s a terrible film detective. It makes him so human, so believable, some of Sim’s more absurd characteristics are smoothed out. At the end, it’s not clear Sim is such a bumbler, which works for and against the film.

I have two complaints about the film. First, it doesn’t really take place on Harker’s holiday. The first act–the film is beautifully structured, especially for a whodunit, with a real fifteen minute first act–does take place on holiday but then it ends as the murder investigation begins. The holiday scenes were amusing and the setting good; I felt a little let down.

The second problem is more significant. We never find out the motive for the crime. The film concentrates on the rather complicated method and the explanation behind it, but never the simple motive. The ending is hurried with no time spent explaining.

But it’s a fun picture, with great acting.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Walter Forde; screenplay by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on an adaptation by J.O.C. Orton, a novel by Leo Grex and characters created by Hans Wolfgang Priwin; director of photography, Jack E. Cox; edited by R.E. Dearing; music by Charles Williams; produced by Edward Black; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Gordon Harker (Inspector Hornleigh), Alastair Sim (Sergeant Bingham), Linden Travers (Miss Meadows), Wally Patch (Police Sergeant), Edward Chapman (Captain Fraser), Philip Leaver (Bradfield), Kynaston Reeves (Dr. Manners), John Turnbull (Chief Constable) and Wyndham Goldie (Sir George Winbeck).


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