Monday, September 18, 2023



STOLEN ASSIGNMENT is a 1955 lighthearted British mystery film directed by Terence Fisher. Despite being filmed at Bray Studios, and having a number of Hammer Films veterans in front of and behind the camera, this movie is not a production of that company. 

The film deals with reporters Mike Billings (John Bentley) and Jenny Drew (Hy Hazell), who are involved in a relationship and work at the same newspaper as well. An heiress unhappily married to an artist (Patrick Holt) goes missing, and Mike and Jenny inject themselves in on the case, much to the consternation of Inspector Corcoran (Eddie Byrne). 

STOLEN ASSIGNMENT has a plot that was old by the time it was made. All the major elements in the film--a pair of noisy reporters who compete and argue with each other even though they're in love, a grumpy editor, a police inspector who is annoyed by the media--will be familiar to old movie buffs from seeing them in plenty of Warner Bros. flicks made in the 1930s. The thing is, those Warner productions were fun and energetic. STOLEN ASSIGNMENT is an in-betweener--it isn't serious enough to be a suspenseful mystery tale and it's not amusing enough to be entertaining. The whodunit aspect of the story is rather weak. 

John Bentley is a rather underwhelming hard-driving reporter (he's no Lee Tracy, that's for sure.) Eddie Byrne, who would work with Terence Fisher a number of times, gives a solid performance as the no-nonsense Inspector. Blonde, beautiful, and charismatic Hy Hazell gives the movie what liveliness it has as Jenny (her character should have been given far more screen time). Hazell is so appealing that you wonder why her Jenny is involved with such a dull guy as Mike. 

John Bentley and Hy Hazell in STOLEN ASSIGNMENT

I had never seen this film before, and while doing research on it, I found out that STOLEN ASSIGNMENT is actually a sequel to another Terence Fisher directed film for an independent British company called FINAL APPOINTMENT. That movie also featured John Bentley as Mike Billings, but Eleanor Summerfield played Jenny and Liam Redmond played Inspector Corcoran. Both movies were produced by Francis Searle and written by Kenneth Hayles. As a matter of fact, the characters of Mike Billings, Jenny Drew, and Inspector Corcoran would appear in two other low-budget British features made somebody must have liked them. 

STOLEN ASSIGNMENT gets almost no coverage in the books and magazine articles about Terence Fisher, and it's easy to see why. It's only about an hour long, and it's not even as interesting as the many crime/noir movies Fisher directed for Hammer in the early 1950s. Humor was not exactly Terence Fisher's forte, and this movie needed much more rhythm, and better byplay between the two leads. STOLEN ASSIGNMENT will be of interest to Hammer fans due to the fact that it presents several views of the exteriors of Bray Studios. You could even say it's an early Hammer film in everything but name only. 

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