British Special Agent
Dick Barton (Don Stannard) is sent to the coastal town of Echo Bay
where a smuggling ring originating in Germany is attracting the
attention of the Home Office. Barton soon discovers that someone is
smuggling mysterious metal objects into the country inside lobsters and
he begins to uncover a complex conspiracy of fishermen and ex-Nazi
officers involved in a deadly plot. With help from his pals, and a
young fan, he has to avoid the smuggler's frequent attempts to kill him
and save Britain...
Based on a very popular radio show of the time, Dick Barton: Special Agent
opens with the distinctive BBC announcer's voice, and the Devil's
Gallop theme tune. Although originally intended for mature audiences,
the show had become most popular with children, with audience
figures exceeding even the dedicated children's shows; the film
reflects this with plenty of family-safe phsyical comedy - straight out
of the books of the Ealing Comedy or early Carry-On films - and even
a young side-kick, obsessed with the Dick Barton comics, straight
out of the world of Just William.
The story pans out like one of the 1942 Basil Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes
pictures, with the bad guys revealed from the start, although their
plans kept secret. Relatively slow paced and cliché (the smart
bad guys have a dozen incompetent croonies) with a predictable
the storyline offers few surprises.
It is the direction that really dates Dick Barton: Special Agent, director Alfred Goulding had directed comedy duo Laurel and Hardy in A Chump at Oxford
(1940) but mostly directed shorts in Hollywood. His style here
(probably limited by the film's low budget) is very basic, no moving
cameras, no long takes, just a lot of talking heads - the fights scenes
look far too comic and there is some very obvious speeded up footage
near the end in a truck. Only a sequence shot in shadow shows any real
talent but it is all to brief. In true Hammer style, the low budget
doesn't stop the set design looking pretty good, although budget
obviously didn't stretch to a soundtrack and most of the scenes play
out in silence, to their detriment.
are no big name actors on the cast list, Don Stannard as Dick Barton
looks good and has the physical stature to match his role, while
Geoffrey Wincott as the villianous Dr. Casper looks fittingly evil -
the rest of the cast are average at best.
Dick Barton: Special Agent is
an enjoyable film if you know what to expect - this low budget 1940s
spy film doesn't contain impressive direction,
stunning action scenes or even clever plot twists, but it does contain some nice sets and
some funny physical comedy from a bygone era that is still enjoyable for
Anyone famous in it?
Don Stannard - the dashing star of all three of Hammer's Dick Barton films.
Directed by anyone interesting?
Alfred Goulding - a former Hollywood director who shot Laurel and Hardy film A Chump at Oxford (1940).
Some comedy style-fist fights, nothing more.
Who is it for?
Only really for fans of the 1940s style of physical comedy films.
A very limited score, with the distinctive opening score of the radio show.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Black and White. The
print quality is good for the most part with some speckles but lots of
detail even in the night-time scenes. Occasional scenes have very heavy
marks on the print but only brief, and the film is never unwatchable.
English language original mono sound. Clear for the most part, but occasionally muffled.