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Paul Temple comes to DVD

Sunday, 12 July 2009 12:31

It’s a step back in time to a world of cool glamour and intrigue with the DVD release of Francis Durbridge’s Paul Temple Collection. The only available adventures of the unflappable and irrepressible crime writer, played by cult icon Francis Matthews (the title character in Gerry Anderson’s Captain Scarlet) and his enterprising wife Steve (Ros Drinkwater) form a formidable team in this detective drama.

Paul Temple is one of the most popular private detectives of all time, beginning life in a 1938 BBC radio serial before appearing in novels, film and even a daily comic strip. The radio show lasted for three decades before Auntie Beeb decided it was time to bring Paul and Steve to television. This four disc DVD set features the eleven surviving colour episodes of a series, encapsulating crime-busting sophistication 1970s style.

Paul Temple DVDFilmed in a variety of beautiful locations around Europe, Paul and Steve take on the idle rich in Malta, a murder mystery played out live on TV, witchcraft, strange encounters at a ball in Munich and other mysteries that only one crime writer can solve.

Paul Temple and Steve ended their 30 year radio career with the broadcast of the “Paul Temple and the Alex Affair” serial in 1968. However, the BBC hadn't finished with Paul Temple, and in 1969 he was to debut on British television. 

There were many differences to the radio days. Francis Durbridge did not write the stories, and it was filmed as a series of stand-alone episodes, rather than serials with cliffhangers. The series was also updated to a then-contemporary landscape.

Setting the stage for what was to come was frequent Durbridge collaborator Alan Bromly who had produced and directed various of the radio serials (he was also the producer of Out of the Unknown, and would go on to direct the Doctor Who stories “The Time Warrior” and “Nightmare of Eden”),. There was a considerable Doctor Who influence in the production staff right throughout the show’s run, with the likes of Peter Bryant (Doctor Who associate producer and story editor 1966 to 1967, producer and story editor 1967 to 1968, and producer 1968 to 1969) and Derrick Sherwin (Doctor Who story editor 1967 to 1968, producer, script editor, and writer 1968 to 1969, and producer 1970) taking over as producers from the second series onwards.

Other Doctor Who directors who worked on the show were Christopher Barry, Darrol Blake, Douglas Camfield, David Maloney and George Spenton-Foster. Writers included Cyril Abraham, Michael J Bird, Dennis Spooner, and David Whitaker.

The title music is courtesy of Ron Grainer, the theme-meister behind such classics as Doctor Who and The Prisoner.

The was much location filming on the show, and many times the production went overseas. This means that the series did not have a consistent feel to it, especially when many of the plots only called for limited, if any, location filming.

The show, in its entirety, consisted of 52 episodes, spread over four seasons between 1969 and 1971. Francis Matthews was approached to be the star, a choice approved of by Durbridge himself.

This was an example of a very early BBC co-production, something it would appear at the time the Corporation was far from comfortable with.  From the second series onwards, German company Taurus film Munich became the co-producer of Paul Temple. The extra budget that came in from this co-production was one of the main reasons so much filming abroad could be done.

So it was that there were various German locations as well as Malta, Amsterdam, Bruges, Italy – quite a change from the first season’s UK-bou8nd stories.

The Temples had sidekicks in the shape of elderly Kate (June Ellis) and Eric (Blake Butler). In season two Kate appeared only occasionally, and Eric appeared just the once. This void was filled by Sammy Carson (George Sewell), an ex-convict going straight, and his right-hand man Paddy (Derek Martin).

Francis Matthews said of the series, "It made more money abroad and drew bigger audiences than The Forsyte Saga. It really was, at the time, the biggest thing, certainly in Europe, and in Australia and places like that ... It was a huge hit, but the BBC has always been ashamed of it and they never mention it."

How much McMillan and Wife, and Hart to Hart too, may have been influenced by the BBC’s Paul Temple is a difficult call.  Robert Wagner’s Jonathan Hart was a thriller writer, after all.

And so to Acorn Media’s release.  It features the only British language colour recordings in the BBC archives, and the episodes on the set are as follows.

"Games People Play" (2.03) (the only episode on 16mm colour film – the rest exist on Digital Video)

"Corrida" (3.04)

"The Specialists" (3.07)

"Has Anybody Seen Kelly?" (3.08)

"Motel" (3.10)

"Cue Murder!" (3.11)

"Death of Fasching" (3.12)

"Catch Your Death" (3.13)

"Ricochet" (4.03)

"With Friends Like You, Who Needs Enemies?" (4.04)

"The Quick And The Dead" (4.06)


There are also five Monochrome 16mm telerecordings that came back from New Zealand to the BBC but are not included on this set.  For reference, they are the final quartet of episodes: “The Guilty Must Die” (4.09), “Game, Set and Match” (4.10), “Long Ride to Red Gap” (4.11), “Winner Takes All” (4.12), and “Critics, Yes!” (4.13).

You can find out more at the Cult TV episode guide for Paul Temple on this website.

According to the BBC most of the original series 2 to 4 are held by the BetaFilm archive near Munich (BetaFilm now owns the rights to the Taurus film library). Whether these epsiodes will ever find their way back to the UK is anyone’s guess, as is whether they hold any English language versions or just their German dubbed copies.

This four disc special edition comes to DVD on 20 July 2009.  It has several special features including: ‘Being Paul Temple’ an exclusive interview with Francis Matthews; ‘The Women of Paul Temple’ and ‘Fashion Statements’ image galleries, and a Francis Durbridge biography.

The running time is 561 minutes approx, with a “12” certificate and an RRP of £34.99, or less from .  Thanks to Acorn Media and Cineology, you could have had the chance to put one of three copies of the Paul Temple Collection onto your mantelpiece, in our prize competition.  All you had to do was tell us the answer to the following question: Which Gerry Anderson star character did Francis Matthews provide the voice to? The answer was Captain Scarlet, and the winners were Neil Molyneux of Bootle, Karen Green of Gravesend, and John Tranter of Wolverhampton.  Well done all!

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37