Crook’s Tour (1941)

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*. Sequels are nothing new. Shakespeare had such a hit with the First Part of Henry IV that a Second Part was soon in the works. And being the theatre man he was, he knew what it was the audience wanted. They wanted more Falstaff, a comic supporting character who has dominated performances of the play ever since. Indeed, Falstaff was so popular he even went on to get his own starring vehicle with The Merry Wives of Windsor.
*. You know where I’m going with this. Crook’s Tour is the third movie featuring the British comic duo of Charters (Basil Radford) and Caldicott (Naunton Wayne), following up The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich. In both those earlier films, however, they played supporting roles. Here they’re the stars.
*. Otherwise, the story is much the same, being another wartime tale of European espionage. This time out there’s a comedy of errors invoving C&C getting their hands on a phonograph recording with information relating to an act of German espionage. This seems like a very difficult way to send a message, but it allows for the introduction of a night-club singer into the plot.
*. If Crook’s Tour doesn’t have the weight of the earlier films it does at least have lots of charm and funny lines. What makes it less memorable isn’t the lack of conventional romantic leads but the absence of any particularly interesting set-piece scenes. The bathroom that leads directly to the Bosphorus is a decent (if highly improbable) gag, but aside from that it’s just not a very inventive movie. Our two heroes are sent on the road to exotic locations, but they’re only sets and they aren’t put to any good use. It would take a later British spy and a colder war to perfect the formula of the travelogue thriller that is foreshadowed here: with death waiting behind every curtain and pillar, the urbane and voluble villain in a spectacular hideout, the escape from certain death, the feisty Bond girl . . .

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