Review of Penny Gold in Monthly Film Bulletin, July 1973, p. 151


Penny Gold

Great Britain, 1973            Director:  Jack Cardiff

Cert--A.  dist--Scotia-Barber.  p.c.--Fanfare Films.  p--George H. Brown.  p. sup--Jan Darnley-Smith.  asst. d--Stuart Freeman.  sc--David Osborne.  Li9z Charles-Williams.  ph--Ken Hodges.  col--Eastman Colour.  ed--John Trumper.  a.d--Bert Davey.  m/d.d--Joahn Scott.  sd--Danny Daniel.  l.p--Francesca Annis (Delphi Emerson), James Booth (Matthews), Nicky Henson (Roger), Una Stubbs (Anna), Joseph O'Conor (Charles Blachford) Richard Heffer (Claude Grancourt), Joss Ackland (Jones), Sue Lloyd (Model), George Murcell (Dr. Merrick), Marianne Stone (Mrs. Parsons).  8,127 ft. 90 mins.

Police detective Matthews and his assistant Roger are called in to investigate the brutal murder of Diane Emerson.  Her face has been badly battered, but her body is identified by her identical twin, Delphi, who lives and works with her stepfather, Charles Blachford, a philatelist with a weak heart.  Matthews interviews both Delphi and Blachford about the murder before interrogating Tina Hobbs, the American gi8rl who runs Diane's boutique, and Claude Grancourt, a photographer who was Diane's lover.  Matthews learns fro Delphi, towards whom he feels a growing attraction, that Blachford has long been seeing the "Penny Gold", a priceless stamp held by Amsterdam dealer Van der Meij, who will only exchange it for another, known as the "Geneva".  Matthews subsequently discovers that Diane, posing as "Delphi, had tricked the owner of the "Geneva" into swapping it for a fake and had then exchanged it with Van der Meij for his "Penny Gold":  he also establishes that Blachford has left his stamp business to Delphi in his will before Blachford dies in suspicious circumstances.  Delphi and Claude both have satisfactory alibis, but Tina Hobbs does not.  After a car chase, however, she escapes from the police, and later she accompanies Claude on a visit to Delphi, allegedly to talk about the "Penny Gold" which is now in Claude's possession.  Claude and Tina chloroform Delphi and put her in a trunk in Claude's car; whereupon Tina removes her wig and spectacles to reveal her true identity as the supposedly murdered Diane.  Claude and Diane (now dressed as Delphi) make haste to depart, but are horrified to discover Delphi sitting on the drawing-room sofa.  She has been freed by Matthews, who has now deduced that a hippie was murdered in Diane's place.  After a struggle, he and Roger arrest the guilty pair.

A depressingly mediocre film from Jack Cardiff, who has here succeeded in recreating the Merton Park second-feature murder mystery of a decade ago, complete with raincoated copper (and matey assistant), voice-over flashbacks, guest heavies, and a parochial Thames-side location (not too far from the studios).  One half-expects Russell Napier to materialise at any moment, pick up a phone, say "Hello.  Inspector...what?", and dash off in his lack Wolseley, bell clanging, to investigate a houseboat homicide.  True, the avuncular Napier rarely got into colour and never got the girl in the end (whereas James Booth, with a smile and wink, and a pat of Francesca Annis' hand, does both); but the rest if familiar enough to set Edgar Wallace's bust revolving once again.  It is difficult to fathom the purpose behind a dispiriting throwback of this kind, unless it be to tap the remnants of the nostalgia market.  If so, the barrel is being well and truly scraped.


Clyde Jeavons