Someone tries to break into the safe of mine owner James Duncan (Julien Mitchell).
Meanwhile two petty crooks are down on their luck and looking for a score. Dacier (Ferdy Mayne) and Marat (Paul Croft). They are looking for Charlie Fox. They hear he’s into something profitable and they want in. While walking on the beach they find Fox’s body. Rifling through his effects they find some money and a pouch of diamonds. Their luck seems to have changed a little.
Constable Morgan (Cyril Smith) is called to investigate Fox’s death. The coroner, Dr. Grey (Patric Curwen) believes it is a suicide. Morgan asks Duncan if he knows the man. Duncan tells him that the man wanted to buy his tin mine. Duncan doesn’t want to sell.
Duncan’s daughter Stella (Pamela Stirling) is engaged to Dick Warren (Dennis Price). Warren works for Duncan as the manager of the mine. Duncan’s secretary is Rainsford (Dennis Arundell). Rainsford is blackmailing Duncan. Duncan had written a letter confessing to the murder of Stella’s real father. Since then he has been raising Stella as his own. Rainsford managed to get a hold of the letter. He wants Duncan to fire Warren, sell the tin mine and give him half the proceeds. Then he wants Duncan to convince Stella to marry him instead of Warren.
An explosion at the mine complicates the situation. It’s not the first problem at the mine. Someone really wants Duncan to sell. Duncan’s neighbor Beales (Kynaston Reeves) tells Duncan that he saw someone come out of the mine’s shack where the dynamite is kept. Vandalism is suspected. Warren is fired for letting the vandalism happen. Stella is not happy. At wits end Duncan records a message on a wax cylinder and sends it to the infamous private detective Sexton Blake (David Farrar) confessing everything he did and everything that is currently happening. Duncan pleads to Blake for help.
By the time Blake hears the message Duncan is dead. Blake investigates the murder and finds himself in the middle of murders deemed suicides, stolen diamonds and a Nazi plot to invade England.
“The Echo Murders” was released in 1945 and was directed by John Harlow. It is a British thriller based on the character Sexton Blake created by Harry Blyth, using the pseudonym Hal Meredeth. It was one of two films directed by John Harlow and in which David Farrar played the famous detective. The other film was “Meet Sexton Blake” 1945.
The movie is a complicated string of events. The plot starts out as a murder mystery but ends up spinning out and quickly incorporating blackmail, murder and, the highlight of most espionage films in the mid forties, Nazis. It’s easy to get confused and lose your place. Characters are used as plot devises and then discarded. There are plot holes that add to the confusion in the storyline. Also, the bits of similarity between Sexton Blake and Sherlock Holmes add another layer of confusion in the characters. In addition, since the plot is so intricate there isn’t much time for character development. Another aspect that made the film a little difficult to follow was the condition of the film itself. The sound was a little fuzzy at times and the print I saw was not in very good shape. It’s not a bad movie but it is involved so you’ll need to pay close attention to what is going on. I’d call it a mystery movie that threw in some espionage at the end.
The fictional Sexton Blake character has been featured in British comic strips, radio serials, books and movies, both silent and sound. Between 1893 and 1978 there were over 4,000 Sexton Blake stories written by at least 200 different authors. In the sixties there was a television series based on the character. Blake began his career based on early 19th century detectives. His style evolved in the late 1890’s to copy Sherlock Holmes. Later he established his own character style. In “The Echo Murders” some of Sherlock Holmes’ style is clearly evident.