The Desperate People
BBC 1963
Another entry in a long line of highly successful thriller serials, The Desperate People was one of the rare adaptations of a Francis Durbridge novel to be transmitted in the tea-time early-evening slot on BBC 1. The serial opened with Larry Martin (Denis Quilley) overjoyed that his brother Philip (Philip Guard) had returned home from the Army to see him. The pair were only briefly reunited before he received a mysterious telephone call from an army colleague's wife - who revealed that her husband had been killed in a road accident in Hamburg - and left shortly thereafter, apparently destined for Dublin.

, a professional photographer, returned to his busy shooting schedule, but was shocked to learn from the police the following day that his brother's body had been found in a Maidenhead hotel room, and the authorities suspect he committed suicide. Larry cannot believe that his brother, a carefree man brimming with over-confdience, would commit suicide and suspects foul play. The situation becomes even more puzzingly when he receives a photograph of Philip in the post - a picture precisely the same as the one he used to display in the shop-front window of his photographic studio. Even more puzzling is the fact that Philip's picture in the window has been replaced by a photograph of his ex-Army colleague, Sean Reynolds, and his wife. When Larry is presented with his late brother's personal effects by the police, he finds a key which was apparently in Philip's clenched first when his body was found. Confused, he sets off to Arundel in Sussex (the scene of the crime) to investigate still-further, and it is here that he encounters two interested parties who are desperate to acquire the key: Mrs Curtis (the hotel owner) and her step-brother, Thomas Quayle. Their efforts to obtain the key from Larry leave him with yet another clue - a torn ticket to a local dance. In the company of his secretary Ruth (Renny Lister), the pair attend the dance and meet Norman and Freda Stansdale (John Flint and Hilary Crane), and Larry makes a startling connection - the pair are, in reality, Sean Reynolds and his wife.

The following morning, when Larry is presented with his late brother's attaché case (the contents of which are a large amount of German currency), he confronts a man posing as Inspector Hyde, who demands the return of the money (which he claims is forged). After a menacing encounter with the imposter and his accomplice, Larry later discovers the body of Philip's girlfriend, Clare Seldon (Shirley Cain), in a deserted alleyway, and upon returning to his hotel room he learns that his secretary has been kidnapped, and her safe return is upon the condition that the money is handed over to the man he only knows as Inspector Hyde

The Desperate People, hailed in the novel as featuring the central character coming up "against those who cheat; who rob; those who will go to any lengths to achieve their aims. It brought him hard up against the desperate people: those to whom murder is a way of life", was a superbly scripted drama production will all the characteristic Durbridge hallmarks of suspense, a scattering of clues and red herrings combined, and a labyrinthine plot which took some hard navigation to unravel.

The programme featured notable supporting performances from newcomer Nigel Hawthorne (Cliff Fletcher), Barry Jackson and Desmond Cullum-Jones, and was produced and directed by the reliable Alan Bromly (a man almost singularly responsible for production of BBC Television's thriller output between 1962 and 1966). In an unusual move, the character of Larry Martin was originally known as Philip Holt in the novel from which the series was adapted (and his brother was known as Rex), and the story itself reached an entirely different climax to that which appeared in the book. The series was exported worldwide, and became popular in Germany and Australia, but has never been commercially exploited.

The first episode was publicised in the Radio Times with the following article by Francis Durbridge:
Publicity : The Desperate People - Francis Durbridge introduces his new six-part thriller serial: A considerable responsibility always rests upon the shoulders of an actor picked to play the lead in a television serial. He must have an arresting personality and be able to keep an audience's attention from one episode to the next, usually through a series of widely differing situations. It is understandable, therefore, that a writer is always on the look-out for a likely actor to tackle this demanding role. When I was in New York almost two years ago I was very impressed by the performance of Denis Quilley in the Broadway production of the musical play Irma La Douce.

I wrote a letter saying how much I had enjoyed Quilley's performance and what an excellent leading man he would make for one of my future serials. Having completed The Desperate People at the end of 1962 I was delighted to learn that Quilley was now in England, and was, indeed, excited at the thought of once again playing a straight part in a completely different type of entertainment. The Desperate People is a fast-moving action-suspense story in six episodes and does not feature either Tim Frazer or that even better-known character Paul Temple who appears in my radio serials.

Larry Martin, the main character in the story, is a professional photographer who earns his living by photographing beautiful girls for magazines and commercial advertisements. Larry becomes involved in a series of exciting events following the appearance of his younger brother, Philip, on leave from the army. The story unfolds against a typical English background and much of the location filming was done in and around that delightful town of Arundel in Sussex. During the showing of my previous serials I have frequently received letters from viewers complaining that they have missed a particular episode, and would I be kind enough to send them a detailed synopsis of the episode in question! On one occasion I even had to cable the denouement of one of my serials to a family on the way to Australia. The Desperate People, however, is being screened at a time when the whole family should be able to watch every episode of the entire serial - Sunday afternoon.

This time is considered to be ideal for serial viewers. Although I try to make each serial of mine as different as possible, I am confident that if you enjoyed my previous serials, The Scarf, A Time Of Day, The World Of Tim Frazer, and so on, you will enjoy following the adventures of The Desperate People right through to the end of the last episode.

Denis Quilley: He plays Larry Martin, a photographer with a studio in London. Larry is looking forward to spending some time with his brother Philip, a soldier, who is arriving on leave from Germany. But with Philip comes mystery …

Hugh Cross: He plays Detective Inspector Hyde, a shrewd policeman and one very much dedicated to his job. A couple of unusual and puzzling events in and near London soon bring Inspector Hyde into the life of Larry Martinh.

June Ellis: She plays Vanessa Curtis, the smart and attractive owner of the Royal Falcon, a pleasant riverside hotel on the outskirts of Maidenhead. Mrs Curtis manages her establishment well - but many strange things start to happen there.

Gerard Heinz: He plays Wolf Linderhof, a distinguished German doctor who is a guest at the Royal Falcon Hotel. Ostensibly in Britain on holiday, Linderhof is not all that he first seems. What is the real purpose of his visit? (Radio Times, February 21, 1963 - Article by Francis Durbridge).

Portrayed By
Larry Martin
Denis Quilley
Detective Inspector Hyde
Hugh Cross
Detective Sergeant Macey
Stuart Hutchinson
Detective Inspector Lang
Peter Ducrow
Detective Sergeant Harrison
Colin Pinney
Cliff Fletcher
Nigel Hawthorne
Vanessa Curtis
June Ellis
Philip Martin
Philip Guard
Andy Wilson
Barry Jackson
Man In The Street
Brian Proudfoot
Ruth Sanders
Renny Lister
Taxi Driver
Steve Kirby
Douglas Talbot
Gerard Green
Artro Morris
Doctor Linderhof
Gerard Heinz
Rosemary Rogers
Woman With The Pram
Thelma Holt
Valerie Stanton
Stanley Walsh
Thomas Quayle
David William
Woman At The Accident
Diana Oxford
Tony Poole and Peter Thornton
Police Sergeants
William Kendrick and Frank Dunne
Sergeant Wainwright
Michael Hunt
Sergeant Bellamy
Desmond Cullum-Jones
Clare Seldon
Shirley Cain
Model Girl
Yvonne Antrobus
Leonie Forbes
Ticket Seller
Hugh Lund
Cloakroom Attendant
Edward Brooks
Luther Harris
Stanley Meadows
Peggy Grahame
Frances Collier
Norman Stansdale
John Flint
Freda Standale
Hilary Crane
Pam Reece
Eddie Meadows
Clifford Earl
Oscar Naylor
Kenneth Keeling
Joyce Naylor
Janet Davies

The series was created and written by Francis Durbridge, based on his novel of the same title. The series was produced and directed by Alan Bromly.


TX : 24th February 1963

Notes : Episodes were originally transmitted 4:55pm 5:20pm on BBC 1. The series was transmitted under the banner headline of Francis Durbridge Presents …

TX : 3rd March 1963

Publicity : The Desperate People: In tonight's second episode of the new Francis Durbridge thriller-serial Larry Martin's enquiries into the death of his brother Philip are leading him ever further away from his life as a professional photographer. Philip, a soldier serving in Germany, had arrived home to spend a leave with Larry, but left almost immediately - apparently for Dublin. A service friend, Sean Reynolds, had been killed in a Hamburg car accident - or so Philip claimed - and he wanted to see the man's widow. But Philip never reached Dublin; instead, he was found dead in a hotel near Maidenhead - seemingly by his own hand. Larry (Denis Quilley) cannot accept the verdict of suicide, particularly because of the strange business of the photographs: he has received through the post a portrait of Philip which used to be on display in the showcase outside his own studio. And in its place he has found - a picture of the mysterious Sean Reynolds and his wife … (Radio Times, February 28, 1963).

TX : 10th March 1963

Synopsis : Larry Martin has been given a key found in his dead brother's hotel room. Two people are interested in gaining possession of this key: Mrs Curtis, the hotel owner, and her step-brother, Thomas Quayle. On a visit to Quayle's antique shop in Arundel, Larry's talk with him is interrupted by a customer.

TX : 17th March 1963

Publicity : The Desperate People: Photographer Larry Martin, the man at the centre of this Francis Durbridge thriller serial, tonight continues his quest for the truth about his soldier brother's death. He has come by a key, found among his brother's effects, but is it the key to the mystery? His unknown adversaries certainly seem to think so, judging by their efforts to take it away from him. However, their last attempt to do so has instead left Larry in possession of another clue - a ticket for a dance. And that is why in tonight's episode Larry (Denis Quilley) and his secretary Ruth go dancing - and meet the Stansdales, a couple whose faces seem very familiar. (Radio Times, March 14, 1963).

TX : 24th March 1963

Synopsis : Larry Martin collects an attaché case which belonged to his murdered brother. The case is filled with German bank notes. Shortly after this incident Larry is visited by a man who poses as a colleague of Inspector Hyde. Larry discovers that the man is a fake, and after getting the upper hand of him, awaits the arrival of the man's accomplice.

TX : 31st March 1963

Synopsis : After arranging to meet Clare Seldon, Larry finds her body in a deserted lane. On returning to his flat he finds evidence that leads him to believe his secretary, Ruth, has been kidnapped.

Text © Matthew Lee, 2004.