The Dick Barton Trilogy (1948 - 1950)

3 film, 3 disc collection of early spy films from Hammer Studios. DD Video R2 UK boxset.


In 1946, Britain was in a post-war depression and needed a hero - thus in October 1946 began the first BBC radio broadcast of Dick Barton: Special Agent. The show had massive popularity, with up to 15 million listeners at its peak. Meanwhile, Exclusive Pictures, the distribution arm of Hammer films, needed to shoot some low budget pictures - in an attempt to keep the flailing British film industry alive, a law at the time insisted on a British picture to accompany every American import. Going with familiar themes, they secured the rights to several popular BBC radio shows including PC 49 and Dick Barton. The policy of basing films on popular radio and TV shows would sustain Hammer throughout the 1950s.

Many have compared the Dick Barton films to the later James Bond movies, and they do share many elements, in particular the tendancy of the bad-guys to repeatedly put Barton in escapable death situations instead of just shooting him and explaining their entire plan to him. As per the radio serial, there are dozens of cliffhangers in each film and Barton and co. are often forced to escape from impossible situations.

Curiously, the second film in the series, Dick Barton at Bay, filmed in early 1948, was not released at the time of its shooting and instead production went ahead on the third film Dick Barton Strikes Back which was released in mid-1949. Tragically, Barton actor Don Stannard was killed in a car crash driving home from the launch party and Hammer cancelled their plans for a fourth film Dick Barton in Deepest Africa - instead releasing their stored film Dick Barton at Bay in late 1950.

Although the Dick Barton trilogy contains few similarities to Hammer's later, famous horror pictures, it did mark the first appearance of Jimmy Sangster as 'second assistant director', he would stay with the company until the 1970s as a script writer on many of their most well known horror films. 

The Films - links to individual DVD reviews.

The DVDs

Visuals All films are in Original Aspect Ratios (1.33:1) and Black and White.
See notes on DVDs for picture quality information.
Audio All discs have original English mono tracks.
See notes on DVDs for audio quality information.
Subtitles None.
Extras No extras are included on the discs.
Boxset includes an interesting and well researched 36 page booklet with information on the films and the original radio shows.
Packing A VHS size DVD case with two compartments.
No single disc releases.
Region Region 2 - PAL
Other regions? No other known releases of the films elsewhere.
Cuts? All films are believed to be fully uncut. Prints are English langauge.


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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - July 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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