Monday, 9 March 2015

The Mind of Mr J. G. Reeder, season one

The Mind of Mr J. G. Reeder is a 1969 British television series based on the exploits of one of Edgar Wallace’s most interesting heroes. It was made by Thames TV in 1969, with a second season following in 1971.

Mr J. G. Reeder is a quietly spoken middle-aged man who seems on the surface to be as ineffectual as he is harmless. But appearances can be deceptive. He is in fact a man who strikes terror into the hearts of England’s most dangerous criminals. Mr Reeder likes to say that he has himself a criminal mind, so completely does he understand the psychology of crime.

Mr Reeder works for the Office of the Public Prosecutor. The cases that come to his attention are ones that are beyond the powers of Scotland Yard to solve. These cases are extraordinarily ingenious but that’s by no means the main attraction of this series. The chief interest is the personality of Mr Reeder. Hugh Burden’s performance is superlative. He manages to make Mr Reeder seem both meek and bumbling while at the same time being both brilliant and dangerous. He really is a joy to watch.

Mr Reeder is most certainly not the sort of man to become involved in any dalliances with the fairer sex, or at least that was the case until quite by chance he made the acquaintance of a rather charming young lady, a Miss Bellman. Miss Bellman was involved in one of Mr Reeder’s cases, and indeed would be involved in several more. And, against the odds, it seems that romance may have entered the life of Mr J. G. Reeder. This unexpected romantic entanglement gradually develops over the course of the first series (as it did in the Edgar Wallace short story collection).

Willoughby Goddard hams it up outrageously as Mr Reeder’s bombastic and ridiculously vain and selfish boss, Sir Jason Toovey. 

The 1920s setting of the stories is captured very well even though the series was made in black-and-white. 

The one jarring note is the perfectly dreadful theme music. In fact the incidental music is equally horrible. It sounds like a demented banjo player trying to conjure up a 1920s mood and failing dismally.

The tone of the show is very tongue-in-cheek and very over-the-top. The guest stars ham it up to a quite excessive degree. This was the 1960s and despite the 1920s setting the tone is actually very 60s. This very exaggerated approach could have been irritating but Edgar Wallace’s own style was rather outrageous so in this instance it works surprisingly well.

The eight episodes in the first season are all based on actual stories by Edgar Wallace.

This was one of those series that was a little unlucky in its timing. Although some British series were being shot in colour as early as the mid-60s this was not yet the customary practice. The fact that The Mind of Mr J. G. Reeder is in black-and-white (apart from two episodes of the second season from 1971 which are in colour) has counted against it. TV networks have had zero interest in screening old TV shows made in black-and-white and so series such as this have been entirely forgotten, in many cases (such as this one) most unjustly.

Network DVD have released both seasons (a total of 16 episodes) in one boxed set. The transfers are reasonably good.

The Mind of Mr J. G. Reeder is a deliciously offbeat crime series with a flavour very much its own. For fans of 1960s cult television this really is a must-buy. Very highly recommended.

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