Curtain Of Fear
BBC 1964
The Rassilov Code
TX : 28th October 1964

Publicity : Curtain Of Fear - A new thriller serial by Victor Canning with John Breslin and Colette Wilde: Take a London night club. Add an unusual cabaret turn, "Miss Memory" - lovely Clare Linton, who when her brother has hypnotised her goes into a state of total recall, able to remember everything she ever heard. Add, too, a Russian with secrets to sell, a British agent eager to buy, and a third man with a sinister interest in both. Mix all together, and you have the makings of an exciting new thriller serial, Curtain Of Fear, by Victor Canning: screenwriter, best-selling novelist, and author of the much-praised recent BBC-2 serial The Midnight Men. Produced and directed by Gerald Blake, who was one of the directors of the first series of Doctor Finlay's Casebook and has since directed many Compact episodes, Curtain Of Fear has a strong cast. It includes William Franklyn as Hans Liebert - he was last seen on BBC Television in No Cloak, No Dagger - with Colette Wilde as Clare Linton and John Breslin as her brother, Peter. George Baker, who recently played the dual role of King Rudolph and Rudolf Rassendyll in Rupert Of Hentzau, appears as Clare's fiancé, surgeon Stewart Caxton. In tonight's first episode, the story begins at London Airport and moves swiftly to Whitehall, to an Iron Curtain Embassy and to the Scorpio Room - where Clare and Peter Linton unwittingly become the focus of a drama of espionage and counter-espionage, bluff and double-dealing. A vital code message is at stake, and a man is murdered for it before the evening is out. But it is Clare who, without even knowing it, holds the key in her extraordinary memory; a key which only her brother can unlock through hypnosis. As she says: "It's a bit frightening, sometimes, as though there were two Clare Lintons - two strangers in the same body". And soon, she has good reason to be frightened. (Radio Times, October 22, 1964).

Notes :
Episodes were originally transmitted 10:05pm to 10:35pm on BBC 2.

The Liebert Question
TX : 4th November 1964

Publicity :
Curtain Of Fear - 2: There is a connection, needless to say, between the Curtain Of Fear and the Iron Curtain. A Russian agent has given the lovely Clare Linton (Colette Wilde) numbers in code while she is under hypnosis. These numbers can be used to identify two British and two foreign traitors. But there is only one man who holds the key to her extraordinary memory - her brother Peter (John Breslin). When the agent is mysteriously murdered Peter becomes a vitally important figure. The author of this new serial is fifty-three-year-old Victor Canning. One of Britain's most successful thriller-writers, he has several film scenarios to his credit. He lives in Kent, has two daughters, and enjoys his golf. (Radio Times, October 29, 1964).

Synopsis :
While under hypnosis Clare Linton has been given numbers in code specifying two British and two foreign traitors by Rassilov, who is found murdered shortly afterwards.

The Tannikov Dilemma
TX : 11th November 1964

Publicity :
Curtain Of Fear - In the third episode of this thriller serial Colette Wilde appears again in the key-role of Clare Linton: Night-club entertainer Clare Linton has been pitched into a rat-race of espionage and intrigue. Although she does not know it, locked in her extraordinary memory is a code message passed to her by a traitor while she was under hypnosis. It is vitally important to Russian and British agents - and to the mysterious Liebert, who plans to sell it to the highest bidder. Seemingly, whoever has Clare has the message, and the Russians kidnap her. But as they discover in tonight's third episode of Curtain Of Fear, unlocking her memory is not so simple. The key is the hypnotic control of her brother, Peter; and he has vanished. Colette Wilde, who plays Clare, finds it a welcome change to be a heroine. "On television I've played a string of kinky villainess parts, ranging from a madman's mistress to a gun-toting neurotic". Brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, Colette started in show business at the age of eight as a fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream. "I was supposed to come tripping down a moonbeam and flutter gently into the air, but the stage-hand who had the job of hauling on the wire which lifted me pulled too hard. I took off like a rocket and disappeared behind the proscenium arch". In Curtain Of Fear Colette spends much of her time in a hypnotic state, but in real life she would be a hypnotist's despair. "I thought it might be a good idea to be hypnotised into stopping smoking, but I decided I simply couldn't bear to surrender my will". (Radio Times, November 5, 1964).

Synopsis :
Liebert has discovered that, unwittingly, Clare Linton has the coded information. Told this by Shand, Tannikov has abducted her.

The Linton Compact
TX : 18th November 1964

Synopsis :
Liebert has captured Peter and offered him to Tannikov at a price. Tannikov has rejected this offer because arrangements have been made for Clare to be taken abroad for hypnotic treatment.

The Shand Solution
TX : 25th November 1964

Publicity : Appearing In Curtain Of Fear On BBC-2 Tonight At 10:05pm - John Breslin: regard his role in Curtain Of Fear (he plays the introvert drug addict Peter Linton) as a transitional one. "I am glad to get away from period plays; this is the first modern thriller I've done and I hope that it's the beginning of more modern parts". Like many people of Irish extraction, Breslin, who in fact was born in Glasgow thirty-five years ago, feels at home on the Continent, and recently spent a year travelling in Italy. He can speak Italian and is at the moment indulging his passion for Greece by learning Greek. He began his acting career as understudy to Alan Badel in an Old Vic production of Romeo And Juliet. Since then he has played in numerous films and television plays and serials - generally in "costume" roles. George Pravda: plays Tannikov, a Russian agent, in Curtain Of Fear, but he more frequently finds himself playing the part of a German officer. When he does, he plays it from life. He encountered a number of them during the war when, after escaping from prison in 1941, he acted with a travelling company in Czechoslovakia while masquerading under false papers. Pravda was born in Prague and studied medicine for three years before taking up the stage as a career. After the war he joined the Prague National Theatre but escaped from Czechoslovakia in 1948. He and his wife Hanna acted together for a while in Australia before coming to Britain in 1956. George has a son who is starting to study medicine. "I hope he'll stick to it," says Pravda. (Radio Times, November 19, 1964).

Synopsis :
Ella has put Stewart on to the trail of Clare. Shand has found out about Helen and Liebert. Clare has been kidnapped by Liebert's men.

The Regan Resolution
TX : 2nd December 1964

Publicity : Curtain Of Fear: The failure to find Clare Linton is becoming more and more alarming for her fiancé, Stewart Caxton (George Baker). She has been kidnapped while under hypnosis and carrying state secrets in her memory. The only man who can get her to reveal these is her hynoptist brother Peter who has also been kidnapped. He is a drug addict and is being deprived of drugs in the hope that he will agree to reveal the contents of his sister's memory. Meanwhile Caxton decides to take action on his own account. (Radio Times, November 26, 1964).

Synopsis :
Before being shot by Liebert, Shand has passed to Stewart a clue relating to Clare's place of imprisonment. Colonel Powell has refused to enter into competition with Tannikov to buy Clare.

Portrayed By
Stewart Caxton
George Baker
Claire Linton
Collette Wilde
Peter Linton
John Preslin
Reginald Jessup
Man the Airport
Raymond Llewellyn
Colonel Powell
John Harvey
Charles Shands
William Lucas
John Myers
William Sherwood
Helen Tovey
Jan Holden
Hans Liebert
William Franklyn
George Pravda
Makki Marseilles
Norman Jones
Paul Chapman
George Betton
Gerald Sim
Inspector Phelps
Frederick Hall
Club Manager
Lewis Jones
Glenn Williams
The Nurse
Hazel Hughes
Hall Porter
Frank Sieman
Doctor Friedland
Cyril Shaps
Martin Friend
John Woodnutt
Avril McKenzie
June Wyndham Davies
Ella's Desk-Mate
Elna Pearl
Sidney Vivian
Alan Curtis
John Barrett
Sir John Haslett
Paul Bacon
Powell's Secretary
Bell McCallum

The series was created and written by Victor Canning. The series was produced and directed by Gerald Blake.


The series is particularly noteworthy for the high calibre of the cast and plotting over the course of the six half-hour episodes. The programme took as its central feature the character of Clare Linton (Colette Wilde), a cabaret singer in a London night club who possessed the extraordinary ability, under hypnosis, to recall entire conversations she overheard whilst performing and socialising in the club. Her fiancé, Stewart Caxton (George Baker), would often be an ardent admirer of Clare as she performed, though on the fateful night this serial opened he was otherwise engaged.

Colette's brother, Peter (John Breslin), was responsible for the hypnotic talents of his sister, and it is he who inadvertently became responsible for the predicament in which they would both ultimately find themselves. Peter was sustaining a costly drug addiction through profits gleaned at the night club, and this would prove a fatal weakness when, late one evening, Colette overheard a suspicious-looking gentleman uttering a stream of numbers before collapsing to his death. Unaware of the significance of this information, it remains locked away in her subconscious waiting to be tapped by Peter in their de-hypnotisation session when the club usually closes.

What Colette and Peter fail to realise is that the information imparted to Colette was by a Russian agent who had arrived at the club to sell secrets to a British agent concerning traitors on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The British agent witnessed the death of his opposite number, but failed to act. And in the shadows, another third party with a vested interest in these secrets silently observed the dying man speaking to Colette. When the British and the Russians learn that Colette holds the key to a coded cipher message in her mind, the Russians swiftly abduct both herself and her brother, keeping the former captive and stifling the latter's supply of narcotics until he agrees to de-hypnotise his sister. Unsuccessful as they are, they relax their grip on Colette long enough for the third party, lead by the sinister Hans Liebert (William Franklyn), to abduct her. In the middle of this super-heated environment of espionage and counter-espionage, Stewart Caxton desperately searches for his fiancé and her brother, no matter what the cost. This series possessed a rare dramatic drive not inherent in other thriller serials of the time (apart, perhaps, from the instantly watchable Francis Durbridge serials) and made for a particularly strong effort on the part of Victor Canning (though some of this can be attributed to the fact that Gerald Blake produced and directed with a creditable pace).

Notable supporting performances in this highly-charged thriller serial were William Lucas, William Sherwood, George Pravda, Jan Holden, Cyril Shaps and John Woodnutt. Music for the series was provided by the brilliant Dudley Simpson, and whilst the series was successfully exported worldwide, it was never commercially released.

Text © Matthew Lee, 2004.