The Mind of Mr J.G. Reeder – The Strange Case (21st May 1969)

Lord Sellington (John Robinson) is estranged from his son, Sir Harry Carlin (Edward Fox). Harry is a dissolute spendthrift, desperate for money which his father refuses to supply. So when Lord Sellington is found dead, his son is the obvious suspect. But is he too obvious?

Well, yes – otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story. To be honest, the mystery part of The Strange Case isn’t terribly taxing as the list of possible suspects is quite small. So it’s best just to sit back and enjoy the story.

Robinson (the grumpy Quatermass) plays a rather grumpy Lord. Typecasting at work I think. Although to be fair to him, there’s a brief moment later on when he starts to unbend just a little (after Lord Sellington is reunited with his grandson). Robinson certainly does what he can to give the role some light and shade.

Edward Fox’s character spends most of his time blissed out on opium down a seedy Limehouse den but in the few moments when he’s lucid, Harry displays an arrogant charm. Incidentally, still reeling from the browning up in the last episode, today there’s the unforgettable sight of Denis Shaw as Wu Tong. It’s very much a “me velly solly” sort of performance.

John Malcolm (later very solid in Enemy at the Door) and Jennifer Wilson also feature. It’s one of the odd quirks of archive television watching that you can so often stumble across the same actors again and again – having just seen Wilson in an episode of Special Branch, she now reappears in this (as Harry’s estranged wife – now working as Reeder’s temporary secretary).

Reeder is initially a little reluctant to hire a member of the aristocracy, but he succumbs. The best comic moment of the episode occurs when Sir Jason Toovey discovers her true identity – nobody could splutter quite like Willoughby Goddard.

Once again, I have to say that whilst the story is a little thin, Hugh Burden manages to come up trumps. Reeder’s tangle with the baddy is great fun – Mr J.G. pulling a sword from his umbrella in order to do battle. So whilst the mystery is a little lacking, a series of strong performances from the main cast members helps to keep the interest levels up.

 

The Mind of Mr J.G. Reeder – Sheer Melodrama (14th May 1969)

British actors browning up is an occupational hazard you encounter when watching television from the sixties and seventies. Today’s episode of Reeder has two prime examples – Michael Bates (as Ras Lal Punjabi) and Leslie Lawton (as Ram Bannerjee).

Bates, of course, would later don the brown make-up once again when he played Rangi Ram in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. Bates’ performance in IAHHM is presumably one of the reasons why the sitcom no longer receives television screenings, which is a shame as Ram (as befits a Perry/Croft character) does have certain subtleties.

However, subtle is certainly something you couldn’t accuse Ras Lal Punjabi of being. The character is grotesquely over the top, but then – as per the episode title – that’s really the point of the story. Bates’ turn has an air of mockery, but it’s still somewhat difficult to take.

Elsewhere in the episode, a fresh-faced Ken Campbell catches the eye as Tommy Fenalow, an obviously criminal type. The suit and the moustache are both dead giveaways.

The story, such as it is, is not terribly gripping. But, as always, Hugh Burden manages to make something out of it. Reeder’s love for melodramatic theatre (he’s a devotee of the Sweeney Todd type of drama) is a nice little touch. Guy Verney’s direction is also quite noteworthy – he makes good use out of some strong production design (the high angles in the warehouse set, for example).

Having quickly skimmed through the original story, it’s interesting to note that Vincent Tisley’s adaptation was pretty faithful – especially the passage where Reeder explains to Margaret Belman exactly why he enjoys a decent melodrama.