Salient: An organ of student opinion at Victoria University, Wellington. Vol. 23, No. 3. Monday, April 11, 1960
Film Fare — The Scotland Yard Series
The Scotland Yard Series
Nowadays you can have a familiar face without being anyone particularly important. I ought to know; I've got a familiar face myself. Very seldom in the last few years have I walked more than a hundred yards along a busy street without somebody doing a double-take, or darting back in their tracks to make quite sure, or — in the chummier towns, like Manchester and Dublin — actually stopping me and warmly shaking hands.
"T.V. isn't it?" say some, "I know— 'Is This Your Problem?' " "T.V., isn't it?" says others, "yes, of course— 'Free Speech.'" But the majority simply say — "Pictures. Scotland Yard."
After 35 productions the now famous "Scotland Yard" series of action-thrillers still remain as popular as ever. They are regularly shown in no fewer than 63 countries of the world. Semi-documentary in approach, the crime stories are based on actual eases on the records at Scotland Yard.
A good deal of the appeal of the series lies in the popularity of Edgar Lustgarten, author, criminologist and broadcaster, who has set the scene and provided the authoritative commentary for every edition in the series.
Not really surprising, either. For this summer we made our 35th film in the Scotland Yard series, which is regularly shown all over the British Isles, all over Europe, and most places around the world.
Scotland Yard began for me with a telephone call from film man Stuart Levy. Stuart and I, as kids, used to follow the same football team, but it wasn't football that he wanted to discuss. He had an interesting idea; a series of "featurettes," each telling the story of a crime, founded upon fact and authentic in their detail. And because I was known publicly as a writer upon crime, and was known professionally as not being excessively camera-shy, they thought that I might suitably fill the role of story-teller.
That was—heavens, how time flies—in 1952. I found Stuart's suggestion irresistible. I had done lots of radio, and a little television, but no filming of any kind whatever—and, however much my teeth may chatter and my knees may knock, I welcome the challenge of doing something new. In next to no time I was "on the floor" at Merton Park, trying hard to look like a blase veteran.
I suppose I am a veteran now, but I am certainly not blase. I enjoy each succeeding film as if it were the first—while crossing my fingers, hoping that audiences will.
The cast first gets to work on the action script. Only when that Job is virtually completed, so that my narration can be neatly linked and dovetailed, do I receive my call to the studio, where in a very fair replica of my room at home, I do my "shots" in majestic solitude
I myself would sum up the success story in a single word: Reality. The Scotland Yard films are never dressed up, dolled up, artificially slanted to get artificial thrills. They are (actual in origin, documentary in approach and cinemagoers accept and like them as examples of skilled visual reporting in a fascinating field of human behaviour—crime. Had they been more hothouse, more meretricious, in their appeal, I do not believe they would have kept their grip so firmly.