Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Friday 10 January 1964

This week's episode of the Granada thriller series is written by H V Kershaw, one of the architects of the company's most successful series, Coronation Street.  Here he gets the chance to tackle material you wouldn't normally encounter on the cobbles of Weatherfield - tempting as it is to imagine an international human rights conference taking place at the mission hall under the beady eye of Ena Sharples.  Unaccountably, the conference is instead being held in London, supervised by Anthony Brand with the assistance of shifty Greek Mr Dimitriades, played by rent-a-shifty-foreigner George Pastell (I think he supplies his own shifty toupee).  Anthony's journalist wife Alicee is less than impressed that her status as the organiser's wife doesn't immediately grant her access to the conference's main speaker, the press-hating Raoul Brissac, Nobel prize-winning author of Anatomy of the Police State, Freedom and the Common Man and Democracy in the 20th Century.

Brissac may be one of the most eminent thinkers of the age, but he's also a Frenchman, which means he can't keep his hands off the birds (sorry, came over all Albert Steptoe then).  One former conquest (Margaret Elliot), a society lady who's attending the conference, is hoping they'll pick up where they left off, and she's rather indiscreetly blabbing everything she knows about Brissac to all and sundry.

However, on this visit the attentions of Brissac (Ronald Radd) have been especially drawn toward Justine Clare (Wendy Gifford), an agency secretary employed at the conference.  He waxes lyrical about the Marquis de Sade's Justine; she confesses she was named after a missionary aunt.  Having known her for a few minutes he invites her to accompany to his next destination: Guatemala.

At first responding with jokey excuses about having a hairdressing appointment, Justine comes to realise that Brissac is being totally serious.  "I can't make a decision like this at the drop of a hat!" she gasps.  In response, Brissac gives us the key to his philosophy: "Yes you can! Making a decision like this is one of the few freedoms left to the individual."

Elsewhere, Sergeant Swift impresses Inspector Rose with his knowledge of Brissac's oeuvre.  Rose, summoned by the Assistant Commissioner, gives Swift his invite to the conference.  He introduces the sergeant to the concept of mingling, with the Brands and other similarly liberal types: "Mingling, not tangling".  Swift heads off, and the Assistant Commissioner introduces Rose to self-satisfied Dutch detective Inspector Van Lincke (Philo Hauser), who tells him about a pair of seemingly linked murders on the continent, both committed with a string tie...

...much like that worn by a waiter (Drewe Henley) at the hotel where the conference is taking place.

At the conference, Swift can't help but tangle with Alice Brand, who's not exactly his number one fan.  He apologises for his rudeness to her when they first met.  He didn't know who she was.  "Would it have made any difference if you had?" she asks.  "No, I don't suppose it would," he admits.  But it looks like there could be something more than mutual antagonism bubbling under the surface with these two...

Anthony thinks Rose sent Swift to the conference purely to embarrass him over his role in the Sergeant's suspension last week.  He's pretty astute.

It's not long before Rose turns up at the conference.  Swift's impressed he got in without his invite - in fact he has something rather more compelling: a warrant to arrest Raoul Brissac for smuggling heroin.  Brand could hardly be more aghast: he tries to laugh it off as an absurd error - "Are you sure he didn't steal the crown jewels as well?" (Alice, meanwhile, is practically licking her lips over the exposé of police incompetence she can make of it).  Rose calmly insists it's not just an allegation: there's positive proof.

As Rose sends Swift to fetch Brissac, Dimitriades whispers to the sinister waiter.  Shortly afterward there's a power cut, during which Dimitriades takes the opportunity to get rid of the loudmouthed socialite.

With Swift's attention diverted to the injured woman, Brissac (who most certainly is a heroin smuggler) meets up with his contact the waiter, who insists on the writer leaving the hotel with him.  His Guatemalan romance quashed, Brissac bids adieu to Ms Clare...

...only to meet an expect an expectant audience in the lobby.  When questioned, Brissac breezily admits he brought heroin into the country.  As he disagrees with Britain's drug laws he saw nothing wrong in contravening them when asked to do so by some men in Greece: he was drug smuggling as an intellectual exercise.  And he's quite happy to face whatever consequences this may have.

Unaware of Brissac's confession, Alice has gone to his room in the hopes of securing an interview about the scandalous charges against him.  Instead she runs into the murderous waiter - and if that wasn't bad enough, Sergeant Swift discovers her in a highly compromising position: "Don't worry, I won't tell your husband," he smugly promises.

Having in fact realised what was happening, Swift puts the waiter out of action as he tries to leave the hotel with Alice.  Harsh words ensue over the journalist's lack of gratitude.

Downstairs, Anthony, who's so valiantly defended Brissac against charges of any wrongdoing, is comprehensively crestfallen by the philosopher's admittance that he was knowing drugs mule.  For the lawyer it spells the end of the Human Rights Organisation, whose image will now be that of anarchists happy to ride roughshod over any laws they don't like.  Brissac accepts his argument, and for the first time in years faces the press - to absolve anyone else involved in the conference of complicity in his test of his intellectual resolve.

It would have been easy to write Brissac as a phony, an academic poseur who in the end failed to have the courage of his convictions.  Instead Kershaw and Radd make him a hugely engaging character, undeniably noble despite the troubling implications of his insistence on absolute individualism ("No such thing as society" to a degree Thatcher wouldn't have dreamed of).

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