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Thursday, 2 March 2017

Gideon's Day (1958) [Guest review by Reecey.]

Gideon's Day (1958).

(Guest review by Reecey.)

Hi everyone! I’m back with another review of something I just happened to watch, and this time I don’t have to warn you about scenes of sexual assault!

Just murder!

How many? Three. Three murders.

One of which was committed off screen against a young woman who was washing her hair by a guy who creepily stared after her when she climbed the stairs to do so.

Ack, curses.

Okay, okay. To be fair, the film doesn’t strictly imply anything other than murder, but that is what I took from it.

Everything else I gleaned outside of the obvious intent of the film was that it was made with an American audience in mind and several bucket loads of homoeroticism.

Our man of the hour gets suspiciously close to his informant, his most trusted officer is far too good for him and almost functions as a second wife (seriously, there’s a subplot about this I’ll get into) and there is the immortal line ‘he was my fag at school’.

Which is endlessly hilarious, not because of the words themselves, but because I know what the character was talking about when he said them and the fact I can misconstrue them so horrendously fills me with Leninist mirth (Machias is my homeboy).

Public school is posh child abuse, I swear.

So, let’s begin properly, who is the main character?

He is Detective Superintendent George Gideon, the main character of twenty six police procedural novels, twenty one written by his creator John Creasey and five written by William Vivian Butler.

There is also this film (known as Gideon of Scotland Yard in the US) and a TV series that ran from 1964 to 1966 called Gideon’s Way (Gideon C.I.D. in America) starring John Gregson.

I’m almost surprised that there isn’t a wiki.

The film presents him as basically having an ideal family life, the only flaw in it being that his eldest is eighteen and his younger two children are in primary school. Not that the film brings up an issue with this, but it did strike me as odd. My instincts turned out to be correct, as in the novels he has six surviving children.

Yes, surviving children, one of them died.

Book Gideon seems to be a more complicated and nuanced character than the shouty snark cannon we got here.

Tone is a serious problem.

Mixing humour and murder is not an impossible task, far from it, but the first part of the film was basically Carry On Policing until he started yelling at one of his men about taking bribes and the man subsequently died.

To make things even worse, when they first showed his informant/potential future conquest, he looked like he’d mugged Dick van Dyke in an alleyway and stolen his costume from Mary Poppins.

No one else dresses like this, everyone else looks like they are wearing normal clothes, apart from the ragtag group of scallywags who show up when he’s rescued by a vicar from a pair of thugs.

This film has an awful lot of plot threads in it.

First we have the main thread, the murder of Kirby the corrupt copper, this is tied up with a man being attacked and robbed, the identity of a mysterious woman seen with Kirby, the thugs going after the informant, the murder of a young woman by a mentally ill man, a series of robberies and frauds, Gideon missing his daughter’s violin performance, a bookending motif about a driven young copper, the relationship between the young copper and Gideon’s eldest, Mrs Gideon’s snarky relatives, the young copper trying to give Gideon the ticket to the concert, the vicar not feeling like he’s helping the children, Gideon being dragged into court to give two seconds worth of evidence, an attempted robbery and successful murder by toffs and Gideon failing to buy a fish.

This is all in a two hour film.

A lot of these threads only get a handful of minutes to be set up and resolved. The murder of the shampooing young woman is a prime example.

Gideon is made aware of the man getting out of the hospital he was at and returning to London from Manchester, we see the man visiting a friend and going up to murder her daughter when she needs to leave for an errand, an alert being made to the force, driven young copper bumping into the man who drops his copy of the Guardian and following him to a cinema where he apprehends him. This is then followed up by Gideon going to the home of the young woman and being out acted by her mother who plays that scene deadly seriously in stark contrast to the next scene where Gideon tries to go home for lunch with his mates in a jovial manner.

This is not a long sequence.

Neither is the attempted robbery and successful murder.

I get the feeling that the film is trying to show us a long and hectic day, but this day doesn’t feel so much hectic as it is rushed.

Narration ends up filling in a lot of the gaps, and the first time it happens it feels like it came out of nowhere.

It also doesn't help that one of the few persistent plot threads is Mrs Gideon asking him to bring her home some salmon and repeatedly calling to remind him.

This is where the whole ‘second wife’ thing comes in.

I lost track of who was who, but I’m pretty sure the man who acts as his second wife was called Liggot.

Anyway, Liggot takes his calls, pushes his abused hat back into shape, offers to and cleans up his jacket after Gideon has a glass of spirit thrown at him, sits around for probably hours just because Gideon tells him he’s not done for the day, and bought him the fish.

Granted, it was a haddock, but he went out and bought it for him.

By the end, you’re just like, ‘oh my god Gideon, give the man the D already! He’s earned it!’

There is far, far too much to really discuss in this review, but I feel as though my major conclusion here is that the film tries to do far too much with the amount of time it has, is ridiculously campy in places to jarring effect and, secondly, that Marjorie Rhodes was the best actor in the whole thing. The way she portrayed her character’s grief after her daughter was murdered by her own friend was far too good a performance for this film.

The TV series probably does a less haphazard job, but it also has greater scope to present more of the prevailing prejudices of the day. Something this film doesn’t particularly do, apart from a complete dearth of anyone who wasn’t white. It was 1958, I find it hard to believe that there wasn’t even one person of colour in London.

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