The Edgar Wallace Anthology

This is a bit of an indulgence I realise but I just got myself this massive box set and wanted to tell everybody about it …

Wallace-Anthology-DVD

The following overview is offered as part of the Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his fab Sweet Freedom blog.

“In five minutes there were a dozen policemen round the cab, holding back the crowd which had gathered, as crowds will gather at any hour of the day or night in London.” – from The Clue of the Silver Key (1930) by Edgar Wallace

I love the four dozen or so black and white films that make up the Edgar Wallace Mysteries, the overall title used for a series of popular British B-movies originally screened in UK cinemas between September 1960 and October 1965. With their casts of well-known character actors like Barnard Lee and emerging new talent like Michael Caine (in Solo for Sparrow from volume 3) and John Thaw (Five to One in volume 5 and Dead Man’s Chest, volume 7) and memorable theme music by Michael Carr (later jazzed up and turned into a hit by The Shadows), these are smashing entertainments all round that never outstay their welcome.

Edgar-Wallace-Mysteries-Volume1

This varied anthology, running from traditional whodunits and locked rooms mysteries to psychological suspense and gangland thrillers, are modest but technically impeccable with great chiaroscuro cinematography, efficient direction, strong casts and usually above-average screenplays by such fine writers as Philip Mackie, Richard Harris, Robert Banks Stewart (who all subsequently made the greatest impression in television) as well as one by Hammer stalwart, Jimmy Sangster.

“I’ve killed men for that,” he said jerkily, “shot ‘em down like dogs! I’ll remember this, flunkey!”- from The Clue of the New Pin (1923) by Edgar Wallace

Made on modest budgets and so always set in contemporary London and environs, they were more or less based on the novels and short stories of the eponymous mystery author, though many were original screenplays just trading on the famous name. Each film lasts about an hour each as they were made as dual-purpose product, able to fit both on the second half of a cinema double bill but also for potential sale to television overseas. In America they were thus shown as part of Edgar Wallace Mystery Theater / Hour but with other films thrown in that were not strictly speaking part of the series.

Edgar-Wallace-Mysteries-Volume-1-32328_1

This box set brings together the 40 films that were released under the Wallace series title, even though some were not in fact based on the writer’s work, and seven other films that were often included in the syndication packages. These include the likes of October Moth, a brooding melodrama written and directed by John Kruse set on the moors that is beautifully shot by Michael Reed and quite remarkable in its intensity.

“I’m not afraid of you, Mr. Amery,” she said, and tried hard to keep her voice level. – from The Sinister Man (1924) by Edgar Wallace

I previously posted a rundown of the complete series here – below I give a dic-by-disc breakdown of what can be found in the seven volumes in this superb set (these can still be purchased singly). Each of the seven volumes (each made up of three DVD discs apart from the last volume, made up of two) has a fully illustrated booklet with plenty of stills and reproductions of the original movie posters in colour as well as brief introductory sketches by Kim Newman, who is more of an expert of the German Wallace films made by Rialto at around the same time and which he as a result makes plenty of references to.

Volume 1

  • Clue of the Twisted Candle (which I previously reviewed here)
  • Marriage of Convenience
  • The Man Who Was Nobody
  • Partners in Crime
  • The Clue of the New Pin
  • The Fourth Square

Extras: Urge To Kill and October Moth

Edgar-Wallace-Mysteries-2Volume 2

  • The Man at the Carlton Tower
  • The Clue of the Silver Key
  • Attempt to Kill
  • Man Detained
  • Never Back Losers
  • The Sinister Man
  • Backfire!

Extras: The White Trap

Volume 3

  • Candidate for Murder
  • Flat Two
  • The Share-Out
  • Number Six
  • Time to Remember
  • Solo for Sparrow
  • Playback

Extras: Breakout

Edgar-Wallace-Mysteries-logo

Volume 4

  • Locker Sixty-Nine
  • Death Trap
  • The Set-Up
  • Incident at Midnight
  • The £20,000 Kiss
  • On the Run
  • Return to Sender

Extras: House of Mystery

Volume 5

  • Ricochet
  • The Double
  • The Rivals
  • To Have and to Hold
  • The Partner
  • Accidental Death
  • Five to One

edgar-wallace-mysteries-volume-6The Man in the Back Seat

Volume 6

  • Downfall
  • The Verdict
  • We Shall See
  • Who Was Maddox?
  • Face of a Stranger
  • Act of Murder
  • Never Mention Murder

Extras: The Malpas Mystery

Volume 7

  • The Main Chance
  • Game for Three Losers
  • Change Partners
  • Strangler’s Web
  • Dead Man’s Chest

Extras: Seven Keys

Available directly from Network (currently priced just £72 including postage) as well as the usual shops and online retailers. If you like black and white crime movies of the sixties, you really shouldn’t be without this set.


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20 Responses to The Edgar Wallace Anthology

  1. Sergio – What a find!!! I hope you’ll get a lot of pleasure from it. What a great collection. I hope you’ll be posting your progress as you view the films.

  2. Kelly says:

    That is a really cool collection. I can see why you want to rave about it.

  3. TracyK says:

    I checked out the previous post on the series. The movies sound fascinating, Sergio. Looking forward to more reviews of individual titles.

  4. Sergio, the box set looks tempting as does the prospect of watching black-and-white crime movies of the sixties. That’s a rather Hitchcockian pose of Edgar Wallace. Do you see any influences given that the EW films were made at a time when Hitchcock’s own were coming fewer in number?

    • Well, I suspect that the notion of ‘authored’ anthologies was already well-established in the cinema (especially for the likes of Somerset Maugham and O Henry) and was very common on TV – you could argue that it has more in common with the Hitchcock TV show than his movies as they are selling a mood and idea (the theme music was entitles ‘Man of Mystery’) rather than textual fidelity and no one complained at all.

  5. Colin says:

    Congratulations on your new big box! I was too impatient myself and picked all seven volumes up individually, but got a few real bargains on the last three, so it’s all good. I must say the box looks very nicely presented – I guess it’s the individual sets housed in a slip cover/box?
    You’re going to have a whale of a time with these – every disc I’ve checked has terrific transfers. Enjoy them my friend.

    • Thanks Colin – yes, it’s just the individuals wrapped in cardboard – contents are identical – I had wanted to wait out for the big box but then had to snap it up the minute it went on sale! Greta fun ahead and I’m going to try an read some of the books in tandem too (not that easy in some cases actually as it is not in fact clear in some cases, which usually means it was an original screenplay – we shall see (rubs hands in glee)

      • Colin says:

        Quite right to snap it up – it’s going for a good price & represents good value.
        I can see how working out which films are true adaptations, and then tracking those down, might be a little tricky. Best of luck.

        • Thanks Colin – should be great fun. Spent a highly enjoyable twenty minutes figuring out what To Have and to Hold is based on and getting the text, but I did and a review is definitely coming!

  6. Patti Abbott says:

    This looks like tremendous fun. I hope my library buys it. Or maybe it will turn up on netflix.

  7. Todd Mason says:

    I should go back and check your previous comments, but how do the English films compare with the German krimis?

    • The British films are very much urban, modern-day mysteries and thrillers, very nicely shots in a clean, economical style, essentially quite moderate and restrained in content but very well put together – they offer most of the values of the well-carpentered B film thanks to solid scripts and excellent casts and are never dull. The Rialto films (and I do plan to review a couple of these too) are much more ‘Gothic’, part of that krimi style that would lead to the Giallo movies of Bava and Argento with extravannt camera moves, expressionistic lighting, OTT acting and plots and often set in a sort of ersatz, twilight England permanently shrouded in fog as if Victorian London had persisted well into the 50s and 60s with Jack the Ripper potentially crawling down every cobbled street – in this respect you might find these much more to your liking and in the style of Bloch/Ellison’s take on the Ripper as an eternal being. This unnaturalistic mode or style is quite deliberate though and indeed some of the humour can be quite subversive and often fairly parodic – but then if you consider that Klaus Kinski was a frequent actor in these while Bernard Lee was the most frequent guest actor in the British series, that probably gives you some indication of the differences in tone!

  8. mike says:

    This is what got me interested in Classic tv and movies.
    I got mine a few years back from Ebay to be honest i got stuffed bad copys but i still enyoyed them
    have you seen Scales of Justice ? i cant afford the box set but maybe someone will get me the real thing for xmas.
    Great review as allways thanks
    mike

    • Thanks Mike – actually i only have distant memories of Scales though I remember liking the New Scotland Yard series. The official Wallace films from Network are in pristine condition – really worth getting if you can.

  9. Danzinger says:

    £25 at Network on Air now that’s a bargain!

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