Movie: The Teckman Mystery (1954)

Wendy Toye was a rarity, a woman directing features in mid-century Britain.  Unfortunately, women are still vastly in the minority among studio directors today, but that does seem to be improving.

She started doing short films, among them the exceptional The Stranger Left No Card.  Unfortunately, few offers to helm features were forthcoming.  When they did, they were for projects such as We Joined the Navy, which were far from being high-profile.

One of the better opportunities she was given was The Teckman Mystery.  This is a lean mystery with just enough wiggle room to allow for some embellishments.

John Justin plays a writer who finds himself entangled in a plot involving Martin Teckman, the dead pilot of an experimental craft.  He has been hired to write the man’s biography.  But that is before he learns he is replacing somebody who was hired for the job before him, and that person has since been stuck by a car.  Now Justin finds himself involved a mystery beginning with the peculiar ransacking of his apartment.  It is an odd break-in: “Apparently, I had rather a refined burglar.  Brought his own keys.  Didn’t take anything.”

As the mystery unfolds, it becomes increasingly likely the plane debris found at the scene of Teckman’s crash was planted, and that the pilot might still be alive.  At this point, it becomes difficult to say much about the film without giving anything away. 

An especially intriguing character is top-billed Margaret Leighton as Teckman’s sister.  I rarely notice how people are dressed in films, but I was intrigued by the unusual fashion choices made by her, especially as concerns large and unusual jewelry.  Another interesting actress in this is Jane Wenham, who claims to be Teckman’s wife.

The Teckman Mystery is enjoyable, but not much more than a trifle.  It does a job well, even if it is largely serving up one red herring after another.  Fortunately, the tone is light, though not so far as for me to label this a comedy. Myself, I think there’s something telling in this line from Justin as he stumbles through the mystery: “Actually, I’m just making it up as I go along.”

Dir: Wendy Toye

Starring Margaret Leighton, John Justin

Watched on StudioCanal UK blu-ray (region B)