CHARLES DALLAS: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

rivals of sherlockFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the very first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE

Charles DallasEpisode: THE MISSING Q.Cs. (April 9th, 1973)

Detective: Charles Dallas, created by John Oxenham (pen name of William Arthur Dunkerley). The first Charles Dallas story was published in 1898 in Harmsworth London Magazine.

Comment: John Oxenham’s crime novels and short stories deserve to be rediscovered and made available to a much wider audience. A Mystery of the Underground, his 1897 detective story about a serial killer committing seemingly impossible Phantom of the Opera-style murders on the London Underground was his best-known crime thriller. However, his mystery-solving lawyer Charles Dallas should also be remembered since he was basically a Victorian Age forerunner of Rumpole of the Bailey.

As an example of the impact of Oxenham’s writing consider this – it’s a historical footnote that while his subway killer tale was being serialized, Tuesday night use of the London Underground plummeted to record lows because the fictional murderer only struck on Tuesday evenings. You can look it up for yourself.

Synopsis: Handsome young lawyer Charles Dallas (Robin Ellis) is a Junior Defense Barrister for Queen’s Counsel (Q.C.) defense attorney Sir Revel Revell (seriously), played by John Barron. Like the Victorian Age’s fictional master thief A.J. Raffles, he’s also a top-notch Cricket player whose athletic accomplishments are often in the newspapers.

Milly Revell and Charles DallasCharles has been dating Sir Revel’s daughter Milly (Celia Bannerman), a practicing nurse who keeps pressuring her beau to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Between his law career, his Cricket games and his sleuthing he just can’t seem to find the right moment for it, which causes periodic tensions between the two lovebirds.

After another spectacular performance at Cricket the day before, our hero Charles Dallas shows up for Queen’s Court. After tearing himself away from some adoring sports fans he takes his place in the courtroom beside Sir Revel Revell as they defend a Mr George Wilson (Howard Goorney).

The defendant has been accused of murdering his wife, and his hostile outbursts in court are nearly matched by the bizarre pronouncements of the prosecution’s expert witness Professor Dyne (John Phillips), an authority on the criminal mind and degrees of sanity. Things begin to look very bad for Dallas and Revell’s cantankerous client, who starts threatening to take over as his own lawyer.

The next day the prosecuting Q.C. disappears and the day after that, the defense Q.C. Sir Revel vanishes as well. The situation becomes a media sensation as everyone ponders what happened to the missing Q.Cs. and who is responsible.   

Charles Dallas takes it upon himself to investigate when Inspector Mayhew (Gordon Gostelow) seems to be incapable of solving the case. His lady love Milly desperately wants him to find her father, adding to the pressure of the situation.

As Dallas investigates, we viewers begin to wonder if the thoroughly unpleasant George Wilson has outside accomplices who may have kidnapped or killed the missing barristers. When Charles resigns from the Cricket team to focus on solving the mystery we also begin to wonder if shadowy gambling figures from the sports world have hatched the whole plot to throw the next game in favor of the opposing team to Charles’ former club.

(Dallas is depicted as a virtual Babe Ruth of Cricket, so yes, his absence could well be the deciding factor in that next game.)

I won’t spoil the solution, but I will point out that after a very strong opening half the episode stumbles a bit in the second half. Part of that stumbling stems from the same reason that even Oxenham’s major opus A Mystery of the Underground often suffers critical barbs.   

That reason? The way that The Missing Q.Cs. starts to venture more into Penny Dreadful territory rather than Arthur Conan Doyle territory, just like Oxenham’s hit of the previous year.

Are the missing Q.Cs. ever found? Are they alive if they are? What is the reason for their disappearance? Did George Wilson really kill his wife? And will Charles Dallas and Milly Revell ever get officially engaged? All but one of those questions will be answered by the end of the episode.

I enjoyed The Missing Q.Cs. but I didn’t find it to have much rewatchability value. On my second time through I even shut it off once we got past the mystery-solving and were winding down with the old-time melodrama and gaudy thrills.

In his various mystery writings John Oxenham managed a Hat Trick of detective types with his sleuthing lawyer Charles Dallas, newspaper reporter Charles Lester and Detective-Sergeant Doane.     

And it was a nice change of pace to have a master Cricketer NOT named A.J. Raffles as the main character in a work of crime fiction. +++ 

I’LL REVIEW ANOTHER EPISODE SOON. 

FOR MORE FORGOTTEN TELEVISION CLICK HERE:   https://glitternight.com/category/forgotten-television/ 

16 Comments

Filed under Forgotten Television

16 responses to “CHARLES DALLAS: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

  1. Well done. I petition M’lady for more hours free from house labo(u)rs to track down these episodes. Ever a Brit mystery/procedural et al fan (Jack Frost, Inspector Banks, Inspector Morse, Pie in the Sky, etc) pickings on Netflix lately slim. Thank you, sir!

  2. You continue to amaze, Good Sir!!! And You just gifted my first laugh of the day! “Between his law career, his Cricket games and his sleuthing he just can’t seem to find the right moment for it, which causes periodic tensions between the two lovebirds.” Love it! Thank You, Cheers and Rock On!!! 💕

  3. Sol

    I really enjoy all the information you research on these old detective stories.

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