Episode Four: Never Trust A Ghost

Original Air-Date:
Duration: 50'32m
Screenplay by: Tony Williamson
Directed By: Leslie Norman
Availability: Try store

Starring: Mike Pratt (Jeff Randall), Kenneth Cope (Marty Hopkirk) and Annette Andre (Jean Hopkirk).

Guest-Starring: Peter Vaughan (James Howarth), Caroline Blakiston (Karen Howarth), Donald Morley (Inspector Clayton), Philip Madoc (Rawlings) Edina Ronay (Sandra) and Brian Oulton (Dr. Plevitt)

Technical Personnel: Ronald Liles (Production Supervisor), Frank Watts (Director of Photography), Charles Bishop (Art Director), Cyril Frankel (Creative Consultant), Edwin Astley (Musical Director), Philip Aizlewood (Post Production), Harry Ledger (Editor), Malcolm Christopher (Production Manager), Jack Lowin (2nd Unit Director), Gerald Moss (2nd Unit Cameraman), Val Stewart (Camera Operator), Michael Meighan (Assistant Director), Sally Ball (Continuity), Denis Porter/Dennis Whitlock (Sound Recordists), Bill Taylor (Sound Editor), Alan Willis (Music Editor), John Owen (Casting), Sue Long (Set Dresser), Bill Greene (Construction Manager), Peter Dunlop (Production Buyer), A. J. Van Montagu (Scenic Artist), Frank Maher (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Elizabeth Romanoff (Make-Up), Jeannette Freeman (Hairdresser), Laura Nightingale (Costume Supervisor), Cinesound (Sound Effects Suppliers), Chambers + Partners (Titles), Dennis Spooner (Creator/Executive Story Consultant) and Monty Berman (Producer). An ITC Production.

Jeff: Jeff has been seen smoking and drinking frequently up to this point, but Never Trust A Ghost is the first episode to show him womanising. Every inch the eligible bachelor, he's seen attempting to have a (presumed) one-night stand with Sandra, just one of many (almost) conquests in the series. Must be his personality, eh?
Jeff Scraps: Oh, the indignity! Not only does Jeff get a hiding, but it's off the most unconvincing stunt double in the series, pretending to be Philip Madoc as Rawlings. Jeff later gets another kicking off Rawlings and Shirley's dad from Citizen Smith. "Come here, Yeti!"

Marty: Marty is able to operate a typewriter by telekinesis.

Story: While out for a solemn late-night stroll Marty witnesses the murder of a Mr. Howarth by the hitman, Rawlings.
He travels back to Jeff's apartment to wait for him, whereupon Jeff turns up at 12:50am with a girl in tow. Marty demands Jeff send his date home and call the police, which he duly does, travelling with Inspector Clayton to the house where the murder took place. However, when they arrive Mr. Howarth is back alive and well.
Jeff leaves after Howarth threatens to sue him, only to arrive back the next morning to apologise to Mrs. Howarth, again at Marty's insistence. Marty sees Rawlings in the study and calls Jeff in, by which time Rawlings has disappeared into another room. Obsessed with the case, Marty spends time in the Howarths' house, whereby he learns that both Mr and Mrs Howarth have been murdered and replaced by impostors. Insisting Jeff returns after he locates the bodies, they return again, only to find the bodies are no longer there.
Using Jeannie as an alibi Jeff escapes a third police warning, but is growing increasingly concerned by Marty's behaviour. He elicits the aid of a Professor Plevitt at the British Museum, who convinces Jeff that Marty is hallucinating. As a result Jeff disbelieves Marty's warning that Rawlings is out to kill him, only convinced when he narrowly avoids being shot in his car.
Rawlings turns up at Jeff's office under the guise of "James Wenworth-Smith, 9 Merry Close, Westminster". However, Marty warns Jeff and the two struggle, whereupon Jeff is knocked unconscious and tied up back at the Howarths', with their plan to frame him for the murders.
However, under Jeff's guidance Marty visits Professor Plevitt in order to get him to call the police. We learn that disguises are being used to impersonate the Howarths (the female agent's name is revealed as "Karen"), and that Mr. Howarth was in charge of savings for the Secret Service. His murder means the enemy agents have access to the full names and details of every undercover agent in the UK. The police arrive and arrest all three, though Marty has one last feat to achieve - getting his own back on Jeff...

Production Order: This was the fourteenth episode to be filmed.

Trivia: Silent behind-the-scenes footage of this episode was included as an extra on the fourth region 2 DVD. Shot by a 2nd unit crew using stand-ins for the leads, the sequence ran to 53 seconds.

Look out for the unconvincing "bullet holes" stuck on Jeff's car windscreen 34'36m in. What happened to the broken glass?

There's an unusual bit of (ad-libbed?) interplay 35'36m in when Marty tells Jeff "you're the only one who can put the finger on them" - leading to Mike Pratt glancing querulously at his index finger.

"They're going to kill you."
"Oh really? It's a bit drastic, isn't it?"
"Drastic? It's more than that, it's fatal."

Being both 48 minutes in length and nearly 35 years old, there's naturally a slower pace in Randall and Hopkirk than is expected in modern terms. Somewhat astonishingly then, Never Trust A Ghost positively rockets along, with none of the extraneous padding sometimes used to bump up a runtime. And if padding is evident, then it's given much sparkle and shine by Tony Williamson's snappy, witty dialogue.

Beginning with a sombre opening where Marty disenchantedly strolls deserted London streets, it takes in a murder and randy Jeff failing miserably on a one-night stand. The constant thrust of the plot engages throughout, and in a lesser story I'd hate Brian Oulton's camp ghost expert ("there are few ethereal manifestations of which I have not had PERSONAL experience") but here he's wonderful. Could it be that with Dr. Plevitt we're witnessing the most stereotyped ITC homosexual outside of Jason King? I haven't even mentioned Philip Madoc, who is always superb. The eventual plot turns out to be far-fetched hokum, but then when wasn't it?

Some notes of amusement are Marty putting his hand out to steady himself on the stairs, and the all-shagging, all-drinking, all-smoking Jeff wearing lilac pyjamas to bed. And what the Hell is Jeff's flying leap all about? He's hurled over Madoc's shoulders with his body facing downwards, outstretched... then lands on his backside? Mind you, as Madoc's stunt double has a head at least a foot shorter and ten bottles of Grecian 2000 to his name then I guess continuity was the least of the production's worries here. Yet there's also lots of intentionally funny stuff in there, too, with Jeff's "that's the way I want you" a hilarious rejoinder to Jeannie's "I'm not dressed". And Marty taking the tests with Dr. Plevitt is a series standout, made much funnier by being in a relatively straight story. A great episode, the only real sour point being Donald Morley's Inspector Clayton, who is played too broadly for my liking, but still not enough to really detract.