Eli Klein (Derek Francis) is a moneylender who’s not averse to turning a tidy profit wherever and whenever he can. So the arrival of a mysterious stranger (who we later learn is called Carlyon) intrigues him, especially when Carlyon offers to sell him gold at well below the market price. This seems far too good to be true, so Klein makes his way to Cork to ask for his assistance. But Cork knows and distrusts Klein of old – why has he approached him?
Cork continues to explore methods of categorising felons. He offers Bob an apple and then tells him that teeth marks, like fingerprints, are a good way of making an identification. Although how many people leave teeth marks at a crime scene is open to question!
Derek Francis’ first screen credit was in 1958 – when he was thirty-five – but whilst he may have been a fairly late starter (although he’d enjoyed a healthy stage career prior to this) he racked up an impressive list of both film and television credits during the next twenty five years or so (he died in 1984, aged 60). Francis was equally adept at playing both comedy and drama (one of my favourites was his turn as Nero in the Doctor Who story The Romans in 1965). Klein is also something of a comic character, although Cork does slightly disprove of him (as a moneylender, he’s driven desperate people to suicide). It’ll come as no surprise to learn that Francis plays Klein as very broadly Jewish – the cliche that moneylenders must be Jewish is a well established one, a pity that Julian Bond’s script adheres to this stereotype.
John Woodvine (Carlyon) is an actor with considerable presence. His film and television career (like Francis’) started in 1958, although Woodvine continues to act today (his most recent credit was 2015). Some of his more memorable appearances include New Scotland Yard, The Tripods, Edge of Darkness and Knights of God. His role in this story is small, but memorable.
The Case of the Gold Salesman is a Cork episode with a definite comedic edge. Cork’s plan to catch the conmen includes leasing a house and posing as an interested buyer. No surprises that Inspector Bird becomes positively apoplectic when he learns about this – the extra expense of a servant’s uniform for Bob and a nice smoking jacket for Cork doesn’t help either!
Julian Bond’s script takes its time to put all the pieces into place. Cork’s masquerade as the gold buyer only takes place during the last fifteen minutes, so prior to that we’ve ambled through a number of (admittedly quite entertaining) character scenes – Klein and Cork, Bird and Marriott etc. The meeting between Bird and Marriott is noteworthy, as Bob finally receives confirmation (much to his relief) that his probationary period is over and he’s now a fully fledged detective.
But all this preamble is worth it to see Cork relaxing in his smoking jacket, being attended to by his faithful servant Bob. The scene between Cork and the bewitching gold agent Tamara Andreyev (Jill Melford) is lovely – for once Cork seems to be slightly on the back foot, probably because alluring females aren’t really his thing. After he bids her farewell, he mutters to Bob that Henry Irving has got nothing to worry about!
It’s not the most interesting of cases (the fake gold scam is dealt with very perfunctorily) but the character interaction between the regulars and the guest cast more than makes up for this.