Private Brian Staples (Gary Bond) has confessed to an act of robbery with violence. Mann is convinced he didn’t commit the crime, but when the man who was attacked dies, the charge beomes murder ….
It’s clear from the opening few minutes, as a hesitant Staples calls the police, that there’s something off-kilter here. The presence of Iris Pearson (Diana Coupland) reinforces this. It takes a little time before we learn that she and Staples are an item, but when this news is revealed it becomes the focus of Roger Marshall’s script. She’s an older woman (although not that old – Coupland was in her mid thirties at the time) and everybody seems convinced that she’s nothing more than a gold-digger, preying on a young and inexperienced man.
Barrack-room gossip paints her as either a prostitute or simply somebody who’s more than generous with her favours. And yet …. it emerges that there’s a genuine bond of love between the pair and this was the reason why Staples confessed to a crime he didn’t commit (in order that he wouldn’t have to transfer out with the rest of the regiment – thereby saving him from being away from Britain for several years).
Coupland pitches things just right, making Iris seem – at different times – to both be vulnerable and implacable. It’s one of a number of very decent performances in the episode – the next comes from Arthur Lovegrove as RSM Staples, the boy’s father.
Now retired, he still dotes on the regiment as a father would on his son (indeed, it’s made painfully obviously that he loves the regiment much more than he does his own flesh and blood). Right from the opening few seconds of his first scene we know exactly what sort of character he is. We see Staples holding court in the mess bar where he’s surrounded by a group of dutiful, but obviously bored, officers. You can well imagine that Staples’ rambling anecdote is one that he’s told countless times before.
The revelation that his son is in trouble pains him, but mainly because it’s something that will bring disgrace on the regiment. Lovegrove especially shines in two key scenes – firstly when Staples attempts to buy Iris off and secondly when he has a short, but not very sweet, interview with Mann. What’s notable about this second scene is the way that Raymond Menmuir frames it – every time we cut to Staples the camera is uncomfortably close to him, but Mann is framed a little further back. A simple move, but it does tell a story. The use of rain (the studio rain machine was working overtime in this episode) is another directorial touch which creates a little atmosphere.
John Collin, as the weary and irritable Inspector Paish, offers another strong performance. His cross-examination of Staples Jnr is a highlight as is the way he tangles with Mann. We learn a little more about Mann during these scenes (for example, he used to be a member of the police force).
Lt Colonel Hilden seemed very familiar, but it wasn’t until the credits rolled that I was able to make the connection. Arthur Pentelow, alias Mr Wilks from Emmerdale Farm.
Roger Marshall rarely disappointed and Misfire is a typically well-crafted effort.