BREAKAWAY. RKO Radio Pictures, UK, 1956. Associated Artists Productions, US, 1957. Tom Conway (Tom ‘Duke’ Martin), Michael Balfour, Honor Blackman, Brian Worth, Bruce Seton, John Horsley, Paddy Webster. Director: Henry Cass. Available on DVD (Region 2) and currently streaming on Fandor via Amazon Prime.

   In West Berlin, a German scientist named Professor Dohlman has been working on a formula which may reduce metal fatigue. He is, however, dying and gives the formula to Johnny Matlock (Brian Worth) with the instruction that it should be passed on to the young man’s brother Michael Matlock (John Horsley). Johnny is in a relationship with Michael’s secretary Diane (Paddy Webster) and meets her at the airport on his return to England.

   Also entering the country is the suave, unflappable private detective Tom ‘Duke’ Martin (Tom Conway) who is welcomed by his friend, the former petty criminal Barney Wilson (Michael Balfour). Soon, Matlock and the girl are kidnapped with only Diane’s abandoned handbag remaining. ‘Duke’ investigates and learns that Diane was due to meet someone the following evening at a nightclub. He makes the appointment himself and meets the glamorous Paula (Honor Blackman), who turns out to be Diane’s sister.

   Determined to return Diane’s possessions personally, ‘Duke’ discovers that everyone else wants to steal them. It seems that the formula is contained somewhere in the bag and he must find it before the bad guys kill Diane.

   This routine B-film was produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman, who would later have such tremendous success on television with The Saint. It is a sequel to Barbados Quest, made the same year (and reviewed here), and again stars Tom Conway in a role identical to ‘The Falcon,’ a character he played in ten B-films for RKO in the 1940s. The plot is a little more straightforward this time, albeit less interesting with its focus on corporate espionage.

   Confusingly, two actors reappear from the first film in different roles, which is jarring if one sees these back to back. John Horsley’s Inspector Taylor is nowhere to be seen and the actor instead plays the sensible scientist at odds with his scheming brother, who played the bad guy last time out. There is a welcome appearance from the always excellent Alexander Gauge and a cameo from future Dad’s Army star Arthur Lowe, while real-life boxer Freddie Mills is stunt-cast as a two-fisted barman.

   Both films are reasonably entertaining, but less pacey than The Falcon films and seem to have a lower budget too. They are basically a couple of pilots for a television series which never materialised, but are efficient timewasters all the same. Conway is always watchable and was born to play such suave and darkly handsome characters. More so, I believe, than his brother George Sanders, who seemed ever so slightly lecherous when in similar roles.

   Conway was passed fifty here, and was beginning to show it, but proved nonetheless that he could have played the Falcon for a lot longer had RKO allowed it.