James Lane (Donald Churchill) is a mild-mannered accountant who’s spent the last few months attempting to pluck up the courage to speak to his attractive colleague Ellen Winters (Anne Lawson). He finally gets his chance when a mysterious stranger (Brian Pringle) attempts to shove him under a subway train. Ellen is convinced he was pushed deliberately, whilst James insists he slipped. Although he’s delighted that he’s finally broken the ice with Ellen he’s also highly embarrassed that she’s making such a fuss. She won’t give up though and goes all the way to the top – right to Commander Gideon ….
The first notable thing about the subway scenes is how unconvincing the stock shots of trains and crowds are – they have a very different feel, meaning it’s hard not to mentally shout “stock” every time they appear. The second notable thing is that the mysterious stranger (who we later learn is called John Stewart) only gives James a very feeble push. If he’d have given him a proper shove then it would have been curtains for James. Stewart is a well-built chap, so this makes the sequence a little unconvincing.
Brian Pringle doesn’t utter a word as Stewart, but he looms very menacingly and remains a foreboding presence throughout the episode. An early clue that he may not quite be the full shilling is given when we see him smooth down one side of his hair – a nervous gesture that seems to have become a ritual.
To be honest, James is such a feeble specimen that it’s remarkable a lovely young lady like Ellen takes any interest in him. He’s disinclined to speak to the police himself and is angry (or at least as angry as he ever gets) after Ellen does. At one point he threatens to put her over his knee, to which Ellen only smiles – which opens up a whole other avenue that we’ll not go into here!
Ellen’s not the first to catch Gideon’s attention with a case that appears trivial but turns out to be more important than it first seemed. She’s more proactive than most though, as she turns up unannounced at his home and pretty much barges into his living room as he’s relaxing. Gideon, thanks to John Gregson’s affable playing, doesn’t seem terribly put out though and he soon learns that there’s more to this case than meets the eye.
James and Ellen both work for Chinnery Chemicals and Keen, after a little digging, discovers that three other employees (Martha Robson, Alec Harvey and William Venables) have all died in tube accidents during the last few months. Nobody seems to have even considered that their deaths may have been connected, something which stretches credibility to breaking point.
Martha Robson committed suicide after she was discovered to have embezzled five thousand pounds from Chinnerys. Harvey and Venables (along with James) were responsible for discovering this, so it doesn’t take the greatest detective to work out that somebody’s out for revenge. Gideon pays a visit to Robson’s father (played by Esmond Knight). Knight (a man with an incredibly impressive list of film and television credits) gives a powerful cameo as a man who lived his life through his daughter. It becomes clear that his intense controlling nature (he attempted to forbid her any contact with the outside world) was, in part, responsible for her death.
Had he been a more reasonable man, maybe Martha would have been comfortable to ask him for a loan so that she and Stewart (revealed to be her fiancé) could have set up house. But Robson wanted to keep her all to himself and so presumably she felt compelled to steal. Director Roy Ward Baker maintains tight close-ups on Knight and Gregson during this scene, which – especially with Knight – helps to ramp up the pressure and tension as we see Robson somewhat crumble before our eyes.
One interesting production quirk occurs about twenty minutes in as Gideon questions James and Ellen. Several pick-up shots must have been done some time after the main filming as Donald Churchill’s haircut is so different that it’s initially very jarring.
Although James is so irritating that I can’t confess to being that concerned about his fate, Ellen is much more appealing as the damsel in distress and stars in the closing scene as Stewart wraps his fingers around her throat. Anne Lawson doesn’t have that many screen credits, but thanks to appearances in series like The Saint and Espionage (both available on DVD) she’s probably quite familiar to the archive television fan. Another Anne Lawson performance worth checking out is in the Out of the Unknown episode The Midas Plague.