Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

FORGOTTEN FILM: THE ECHO MURDERS (1945)

Sexton Blake is arguaby the most famous British detective few Americans have heard of.  At first designed to parrot (and rival) Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, the character has appeared in more than 4000 stories written by more than 200 authors.  His first adventure was published in the December 20, 1893 issue of The Halfpenny Marvel by Harry Blyth under the pseudonym "Hal Meredith."  The popular character was soon appearing in many periodicals, including Union Jack, Penny Pictorial, and The Boys' Friend.  It was in The Boys' Friend in 1905 that the character began appearing in longer (up to 60.000 words) adventures.  Ten years later The Sexton Blake Library began, publishing two to four novels a month from 1915 through 1964.  Among those who contributed to the Sexton Blake saga were John Creasey, Michael Moorcock, and Jack Trevor Story.  As a detective, Blake kept up with the times, moving from the Holmes model to a more slam-bang action hero.

Despite his huge popularity in Britain (books, annuals, children's books,films, stage plays, radio, television, comic strips, and even a 78 RPM record album), Sexton Blake did not fare well in America.  Only a few of the books were published here and most people have no idea who this iconic hero is.

Blake was featured in at least 21 silent films and five sound motion pictures, of which The Echo Murders was the next to last.

Director John Harlow also adapted the screenplay "from one of the famous Sexton Blake Stories published exclusively by the Amalgamated Press Limited, London."  Harlow also wrote and directed the earlier Meet Sexton Blake, as well as two films in the popular Old Mother Riley series.

There's action a-plenty (although not as much believability) in this tale of the murder of a mine owner which leads Blake to a Nazi plot to take over England.

Blake is played by David Farrar, who played the character in two earlier films.  Farrar's most notable role came in 1947's Black Narcissus.  He retired in 1967 following the death of his wife of 47 years.  Also featured in the movie were Dennis Price (I'm All Right Jack, Tunes of Glory, A High Wind in Jamaica, and twenty episodes as Jeeves in The World of Wooster), Pamela Stirling (La Marseillaise, The Divided Heart). and Julien Mitchell (The Last Journey, The Sea Hawk, Hobson's Choice).

Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ge6oW_c9LBw

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