CROOK’S TOUR (1941) – Anglo-Amalgamated Films – ★★1/2
B&W – 80 mins. – 1.33:1 aspect ratio
Directed by John Baxter
Principal cast: Basil Radford (Charters), Naunton Wayne (Caldicott), Greta Gynt (La Palermo), Noel Hood (Edith Charters).
Everyone who has seen Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes is familiar with the characters of Charters and Caldicott. They appeared together again in Carol Reed’s Night Train to Munich, which I have also reviewed on this site. I thought I would at least provide a brief summary of this movie here. Even though it has nothing to do with Alfred Hitchcock, the characters did originate in a Hitchcock movie, and they have quite a few fans. This movie elevates Charters and Caldicott from the role of supporting characters to stars of the movie. One would think that having more of this pair on screen could only be a good thing. However, there is one main difference between this film and the earlier ones in which they appeared: the writers. The team of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat gave birth to Charters and Caldicott, and wrote their subsequent parts as well. The writers on this film do not have the original wit and storytelling capabilities of Launder and Gilliat.
This movie plays very much like one of the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road” pictures, with our starring couple in an exotic locale, being chased by spies. Charters and Caldicott are mistakenly given an album which contains Nazi plans for sabotage, and the Germans spend the bulk of the movie trying to recover the album, and assassinate our unwitting heroes. Unfortunately most of the jokes don’t land. There are some funny moments that involve Caldicott and his fiancee Edith Charters (yes, she is Charter’s sister). There should have been more moments with the sister. Also, in their other appearances Charters and Caldicott are very likable. While we might chuckle at their boyish fondness for cricket, we know they will answer the call when there is trouble. In this movie they are written as just one level above buffoonery. Did the writers not see the earlier films? Charters and Caldicott deserve better.
For all that, it is worthy of at least one viewing for anyone who is a fan of these characters. Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, so very different in style and appearance, made for a perfect pairing on the screen, and their names should be better known today. God bless them both! They would spend the rest of their professional lives paired together, appearing side-by-side onscreen at least ten times. They also did several radio programs together. Rumor has it that Basil Radford suffered the heart attack that would take his life at the young age of 55, while on break from rehearsing a radio show with Naunton Wayne. This movie can be found in its entirety on the Criterion blu-ray for The Lady Vanishes. There are no extra features for the movie.