After a couple of years in Wormwood Scrubs, Jack Montelbetti (Tom Adams) has an unusual homecoming after he discovers a dead body in his flat. The dead man, Bruno Pacelli, was an old-time criminal, specialising in jewel robberies.
Jack knew Bruno well (he was engaged to his daughter Julia at one time) and though he died from natural causes that’s only the starting point of the case. After years out of the game it appears that Bruno went back to his old tricks and pulled a diamond heist in North London and was then keen to use Jack’s skills as a fence. The jewels were stolen from Van Heerden (John Savident) who issues Jack with a stark choice – the jewels or his life.
This was Tom Adams’ second appearance as Jack Montelbetti (the first, Jack the Lad was broadcast in 1974 and like most episodes of Dixon it sadly no longer exists). Adams gives Jack a cool, laconic presence – he’s a man who’s rarely perturbed, even when he stumbles over a corpse. And though he’s a convicted criminal the old-timers at Dock Green (especially Dixon) seem to have a grudging respect for him.
But a newcomer to the manor, Len Clayton, doesn’t share their views. He knows that Jack’s a newly-released prisoner and is extremely aggressive when questioning him. This might have been another slight attempt to toughen up the series – at one point Clayton asks him if he’d like a slap in the mouth – but equally it might have been designed to show that rough-and-tumble tactics don’t always work.
Jack doesn’t take to Len Clayton at all and doesn’t waste any time in telling him exactly what he thinks of him. “I spent two years banged up with a pair of incontinent morons. I worked six hours a day in a laundry for ten fags and a jar of jam. I said yes sir, no sir to the biggest shower of illiterate screws you ever met in your life and then when I come home I get you. Oh brother, life can be hard.” He goes on to say that he’s not prepared to answer any of his questions, due to Len’s attitude, so he’ll wait for Bruton to turn up instead.
Jack and Julia were estranged several years ago (at the start of the episode Julia flinches when she hears his name) but it doesn’t take too long before they re-establish their old love. With several different plot-threads running at once there’s not a great deal of time spent on their relationship, but Adams and Gigi Gatti do their best with the limited time available . Gatti’s film and television CV is quite small (several appearances in Survivors as Daniella later in 1976 are possibly the highlight) and her lack of credits is quite surprising as she’s an appealing presence.
John Savident makes the most of his role, affecting a Dutch accent and waving a gun around. There’s not a great deal of menace with his character though, possibly due to Dixon‘s status as a pre-watershed series. The Sweeney would have been able to get away with displays of violence from Van Heerden (to prove that he could follow through on his claim he would do Jack serious harm) but that would never happen in Dixon.
The ending is another example that crime sometimes does pay. Van Heerden is arrested but Jack gets away (and it’s implied he’s pocketed the jewels). Dixon, in his end of episode summing-up, doesn’t sound at all aggrieved about this – another sign that Dixon of Dock Green operated on a different level from most police series.
For Dixon a conviction isn’t everything – sometimes villains will walk free (especially if they’re seen as basically decent people) and there’s a tacit acknowledgment that although the strict letter of the law hasn’t been followed maybe it’s for the best. This certainly sets the series apart from many cop shows where the “result” is all that matters.