REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


FOUR JUST MEN

FOUR JUST MEN. Syndicated, 1959-60. Sapphine Films / ITC Release. “Inspired by ‘The Four Just Men’ of Edgar Wallace.” Starred Richard Conte as Jeff Ryder, Dan Dailey as Tim Collier, Vittoria de Sica as Ricco Poccari, and Jack Hawkins as Ben Manfred. Co-starred Honor Blackman, Lisa Gastoni, Andrew Keir, and June Thorburn. Executive Producer: Hannah Fisher.

   When their Commanding Officer from their days in the WWII invasion of Italy dies, four men gather together to honor him. They discover he had left them a large amount of money and a request they use it to fight injustice. They agree, but unlike the book, go their separate ways to star in each own adventure. At one point during every episode the featured star would contact one of the other four, usually on the phone and for just one scene.

         RICHARD CONTE

   Conte was lawyer Jeff Ryder who operated out of New York, and was aided by his law student assistant Vicky, played by June Thorburn.

Crack Up.” Episode 22. Screenplay: Louis Marks, from a story idea by Lee Lolb. Directed by Anthony Bushell, Produced by Jud Kinberg. Guest Cast: Robert Shaw, Charles Irwin and Delena Kidd. The crossover scene featured Jack Hawkins as Ben Manfred.

   The discovery of a downed plane tied to a five year old mystery of missing gold leads the wife of the still missing pilot to hire the “four just men” to help her get to the plane and prove her husband had not stole the gold. The mystery was better than average but it was hard to care what happens to any of the one dimensional characters.


         DAN DAILEY

   Dailey was Tim Collier, an American reporter based in Paris. Honor Blackman played his girlfriend and secretary Nicole who among the four just men assistants played the largest role.

Marie.” Episode 16. Screenplay by Gene Levitt and Louis Marks. Directed by Don Chaffey Produced by Jud Kinberg Guest Cast: Perlita Neilson, Alec Mango and Peggy Ann Clifford. The crossover scene was with Jack Hawkins as Ben Manfred.

   One of the better episodes, a thriller set against the backdrop of the Algerian War (1954-1962) and its effects on those in France. Collier and Nicole try to save the life of a suicidal young woman.


         VITTORIA DE SICA

   De Sica was Ricco Poccari, owner of the Hotel Poccari in Rome. Assisting him was his secretary Giulia played by Lisa Gastoni.

Maya.” Episode 12. Written and Directed by William Fairchild. Produced by Sidney Cole. Guest Cast: Mai Zetterling, Peter Illing and Raymond Young. The crossover scene featured Richard Conte as Jeff Ryder delivering a vital plot point.

   Ah, the good old days of royalty. A spoiled Princess is in danger from those who are attempting a coup of an uranium rich country ruled by her wise and popular brother.


         JACK HAWKINS

   Hawkins played Ben Manfred, Member of Parliament and based in London. Andrew Keir was Jock, Manfred’s manservant and friend.

Money to Burn.” Episode 21. Screenplay by Jan Read. Directed by Basil Dearden. Produced by Sidney Cole. Guest Cast: Ian Hunter, Charles Gray and Wolf Press. The crossover scene featured Richard Conte as Jeff Ryder.

   A General plans to stage a coup in a small democratic country. He tricks a British company that has been hired to print the country’s currency to help financially ruin the young Republic.

   The script tries hard to avoid any action or show any interest in plausibility as Manfred attempts to get the money back.


   The series was popular in England where it was number two in the ratings (Wagon Train was first) (Broadcasting, December 7, 1959). By August 1960 Four Just Men was in 159 markets (Broadcasting August 15.1960). According to Broadcasting (April 11, 1960), Four Just Men had sold in 16 other countries including Canada, Mexico and Czechoslovakia. ITV Board Chairman Michael Nidorf told Broadcasting (March 7, 1060) that the series had grossed nearly two million dollars.

   Much like the book, today the series is hopelessly outdated. They don’t make them like this any more for a reason. The premise is pure 1950s with older white men having all the answers including a view of morality that would not be accepted in today’s society. In an excellent review by “tanner” at blog double o section, he more fully discusses the flaws of the series.

   Four Just Men was an average 1950s era thriller TV series. Its production values were above average for the day but weak even compared to the 60s era shows that followed. Some of the scenes were shot on location but the series rarely took advantage of the scenery in places such as New York, Paris and Rome. The scripts and plots were limited by the half-hour format and the humorless TV dramatic style popular at the time but soon to change with the success of future series such as Peter Gunn, The Saint and The Avengers. The acting with few exceptions was a disappointment.

   The result was a usually passable thirty minutes of television worth sampling but not worth searching for the now out of print British DVD.

   For a review of the book Four Just Men you will find one by David L. Vineyard here on this blog.