Q Planes comes to DVD

Monday, 10 February 2014 15:17

Q Planes - out now on DVDKnown stateside as “Clouds Over Europe”, this seldom-seen 1939 movie stars Ralph Richardson as Major Charles Hammond, a Scotland Yard officer who is a prototype for the Jason King character of Department ‘S’ fame. Laurence Olivier is in a supporting role as Tony McVane, a test pilot engaged in secret experimental missions. Valerie Hobson (Edith in 1949’s “Kind Hearts and Coronets”) is cynical reporter Kay Lawrence, in this fun pre-WWII spy drama.

Directed by Tim Whelan (best known for 1940’s “The Thief of Baghdad”) and featuring superlative art direction from Vincent Korda (1949’s “The Third Man” and 1962’s “The Longest Day”), “Q Planes” is presented on this Network release in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements. Of interest to Cult TV appreciators are two uncredited performances – one from John Laurie of Dad’s Army fame as a newspaper editor, and also look out for Derek Farr (Ensor in the Blake’s 7 episode “Orac”).

The plot is engaging, beginning with the disappearances of prototype bombers on their trial flights – one off the coast of America, one off the French coast, another in Russia, and a fourth in England. These incidents have left the authorities perplexed. While there is no clear evidence of foul play, they decide to call in Scotland Yard, and Major Hammond is assigned to investigate the mystery.

A running joke is that Hammond’s devotion to duty means he is constantly having to break dates with his lady, Daphne (the glamorous Sandra Storme), who is seen in a succession of outfits for the various occasions she was hoping to be whisked off to. Hammond’s own requirement to change outfits on-the-hoof creates much annoyance in his butler, Blenkinsop (Gus McNaughton, who had played a Commercial Traveller in 1935’s “The 39 Steps”).

Hammond is one of only three men who refuse to believe that the disappearances of the planes are not the result of sabotage. This attitude is much resented by Mr Barratt (George Merritt), head of plane manufacturer ‘Barratt and Ward’.

The film is very much in the style of a ‘locked room’ mystery which would later become the staple diet of the likes of Department ‘S’, and the pace is bouncy enough to satisfy a modern audience. Indeed, I challenge anyone to watch this without thinking of Armstrong and Miller’s two World War II RAF pilots, which only adds to the delight rather than detracting from the movie.

Special features on the release include:

  • The USA release titles – “Clouds Over Europe”;
  • Image gallery;
  • Promotional PDF – “Cinegram No. 78” – a 16 page illustrated guide to the film issued at the time of release, available for the princely price of ‘One Penny’.

As part of “The British Film” range, this is another movie which is a fascinating spectacle, reflecting attitudes of the time, and keen to not be dragged into any scope of this being a plot connected with the Nazis – although we are unsure of the nationality or allegiances of those involved in the caper. Ralph Richardson chews up the carpet with his performance, and Laurence Olivier plays the brooding pilot to perfection.

“Q Planes” is out now from Network Releasing.  With a ‘U’ certificate, and a running time of 79 minutes approx, this black and white release has a RRP is £9.99, but get it for less at www.culttvstore.com


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