The more British 1930s mysteries I see, the more I come to enjoy them. I have previously reviewed Non-Stop New York (1937) here. Certainly, there was a major Hollywood influence in British film, but the Brits had their very own distinctive style. There is lightness and elegance here, and at the same time often thematic forebodings of the coming war.
One enjoyable example is the nice spy thriller Q Planes, released just months before the outbreak of World War II. The enemy in the film is very vaguely defined, but with the political situation being what it was, it is not difficult to imagine what the audience was supposed to conclude.
The plot of Q Planes should be paid as little attention as possible. Major Hammond, who is working for some unspecified spy agency, tries to investigate experimental military planes that have been disappearing in various countries all over the world. His superiors are convinced that these are only a series of accidents, but Hammond sees a pattern. When test pilot Tony McVane loses one of his best friends in yet another “accident” he, too, becomes involved, as does the beautiful reporter Kay. Then there is the usual bit about an engine-stopping ray gun and somesuch.
While this may seem promising, there is really very little else to the plot. The film’s strengths, rather, lie in the nice characterizations (especially Ralph Richardson’s Major Hammond) and the snappy dialogue. The big star, by all rights, should have been Laurence Olivier as McVane, but he plays the second fiddle to Richardson, both in terms of screen time and performance. Still, it is very interesting to see him in what must have been one of his last British films before his Hollywood breakthrough.
Aviation buffs will be disappointed to find that there is very little here in terms of aerial action. Mostly some studio shots of the test plane’s cabin and planes standing on the ground.
This film is best enjoyed if you have at least a basic understanding of the political situation just before World War II.
Running time: 1 h 18 min
Directors: Tim Whelan, Arthur B. Woods
Stars: Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier, Valerie Hobson
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (720×576)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: DivX (699 M)