Case 20: An Act of Vengeance

The case starting today in Fulchester Crown Court is the Queen versus Collings, which might more aptly be called Collings versus Collings, because a young man is charged with causing grievous bodily harm to his first cousin.  It is alleged by the prosecution that the savage attack which took place was the culmination of a long-standing feud between the two sides of the family.  The crime was committed in front of a house in the expensive residential area of Hayley, the home of Mr Clifford Collings, estate agent and property developer.  The man charged with the crime is Mr Collings’ nephew Brian Collings, aged 21, a garage mechanic.  The victim of the attack was Mr Collings’ son Alan, and he is the witness who’s just been called by the prosecution.

Original broadcast: Wednesday 28 February – Friday 2 March 1973

Written by: C Scott Forbes (1920-1997)

Mr Forbes is the only person who could claim to be a Hollywood star before writing for Crown Court (though there is an example of the opposite trajectory, with future Cheers and Pixar star John Ratzenberger co-scripting a 1978 case).  Born in High Wycombe, he appeared in a few British films of the 40s before heading to the US, where he found his greatest success playing the title role in TV western The Adventures of Jim Bowie from 1956 to 1958.  In 1960 he returned to Britain to star in an edition of Armchair Theatre and ended up staying, working steadily on TV in guest roles in shows including The AvengersCompactThe Man in Room 17Emergency Ward 10 and Dixon of Dock Green, and playing Captain Smollett in the BBC’s 1968 adaptation of Treasure Island (alongside Peter Vaughn as Long John Silver).  Encouraged by Harold Pinter, he moved into writing in the 60s, writing plays that were adapted into the films The Penthouse and Perfect Friday, and providing scripts for The SaintSpecial Branch and Arthur of the Britons as well as Crown Court.

Directed by: Howard Baker

This is Mr Baker’s second and final directing assignment on Crown Court (his first was Case 7: The Medium), but he’ll later return to the show as producer.

Presiding: William Mervyn as the Hon. Mr Justice Campbell

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Mr Justice Campbell previously appeared in Case 18: Crime in Prison.

The accused: Anthony May (1946- ) as Brian Collings

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Mr May has an extremely thorough (presumably self-penned) Wikipedia entry that you can read if you want to know all the ins and outs of his career.  Highlights I would pick out include the lead role in the charming swinging 60s short Les Bicyclettes des Belsize, an uncredited role as a soldier in Carry On Up the Khyber, Richard Cromwell in the 1970 movie Cromwell (he certainly looks a bit like Richard Harris), and pop singer The Cool Cavalier in Here Come the Double Deckers! In more recent years he’s voiced the King of the Dead in The Lord of the Rngs: Return of the King and appeared in Maleficent and the obligatory Doctors.

Appearing for the prosecution: Charles Keating as James Elliot QC

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James Elliot was last seen in Case 17: Portrait of an Artist.

Appearing for the defence: John Alkin as Barry Deeley

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Barry Deeley’s last appearance was in Case 18: Crime in Prison.

Witnesses for the prosecution:

Michael Cashman (1950- ) as Alan Collings

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Yes, we’ve come to the first (and likely only) Crown Court actor to have been elevated to the House of Lords.  Not for his acting, of course, but for his decades of campaigning for gay rights.  His most famous acting role is connected to that fight: EastEnders‘ Colin Russell, one half of the first gay couple in a British soap opera.  Prior to that he’d been on screen since he was 14, making his debut in an episode of Gideon’s Way and appearing in the films I’ve Gotta HorseUnmann, Wittering and Zigo, X, Y and ZeeMade and Murder by Decree and on TV as a regular in The Sandbaggers as well as guesting in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, The Strauss FamilyAngels and the 1982 Doctor Who story Time-Flight.

David De Keyser (1927- ) as Clifford Collings

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Mr De Keyser’s face may be familiar, but his voice is certainly more so.  One of Britain’s most prolific voiceover artists, he was the narrator for Pathé Pictorial in the 60s and his distinctively rich tones have been heard in countless adverts and trailers ever since.  In the cinema, he dubbed James Bond’s father-in-law Marc-Ange Draco in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (he also appeared on screen in another Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever) and voiced the godhead in John Boorman’s barmy cult favourite Zardoz and the Holy Grail in the same director’s Excalibur, and he provided the voice of the Count in Hammer’s last Dracula movie (minus Christopher Lee), The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires.  He also narrated the children’s series Oscar’s Orchestra and provided the voice of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone video game.  In 2010 he provided the voice of an alien in Matt Smith’s first Doctor Who episode, The Eleventh Hour, and has also played Doctor Who himself.  Well, sort of.  He dubbed voices on the English soundtrack for the 1967 Japanese movie King Kong Escapes, including the villain, who goes by the name of… Doctor Who! Entirely coincidental, I’m sure, as is his costume’s odd similarity to that worn by original Doctor William Hartnell.

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Occasions where Mr De Keyser’s body accompanies his voice include appearances in The Strauss FamilyThe New AvengersDisraeliThe ProfessionalsDick TurpinThe Far PavilionsYes, Prime Minister, BergeracThe House of EliottPoirotWaking the DeadNew TricksHolby City and, most recently, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man.  Later in 1973 he was extremely scary in the memorable Thriller episode Someone at the Top of the Stairs (which also featured An Act of Vengeance‘s writer, Scott Forbes, in one of his last acting roles).

Angharad Rees (1944-2012) as Pauline Ellis

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By 1973 Ms Rees had already been one of the leads in a Hammer horror movie (1971’s excellent Hands of the Ripper) and appeared with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Under Milk Wood, but she’d find her greatest fame later in the 70s as Demelza, love interest to Poldark.  When An Act of Vengeance was broadcast she’d recently appeared in The Fenn Street Gang, The Protectors and Doctor in Charge and would soon be seen in the TV pilot Baffled!, starring Leonard Nimoy as a psychic racing driver.  She also appeared in The AvengersPaul TempleThrillerWithin These WallsThe Duchess of Duke StreetRobin of Sherwood, and Remington Steele.  At the turn of the 90s she starred alongside Paul Nicholas in the now entirely forgotten veterinary sitcom Close to Home.  Later that decade she gave up acting to design jewellery.

Witnesses for the defence:

Georgine Anderson (1928- ) as Irene Whittaker

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One of those reliable supporting players who are the bedrock of British TV acting, Ms Anderson’s fifty plus years on screen saw her turn up pretty much everywhere, from No Hiding Place to New Tricks.  Stops along the way include Dixon of Dock GreenSpecial BranchThe Main Chance, a recurring role in A Family at WarThriller, the cult BBC play Penda’s FenUpstairs DownstairsTake the High RoadAngelsBlott on the LandscapeAuf Wiedersehen, PetMiss Marple, Never the TwainCampion, Taggart, Coronation Street (as Curly Watts’ mother), Murder Most HorridJonathan Creek and Midsomer Murders (twice).  In 1993 she was in Russell T Davies’ Century Falls.  Davies later reused her character’s surname, Harkness, for John Barrowman’s character in Doctor Who, and Ms Anderson herself in the Who episode Gridlock in 2007.

Margaret Anderson (1925-2016) as Janet Collings

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No relation to Georgine Anderson, Margaret was another actress with a TV career of mostly popping up in things.  In her case this included No Hiding PlaceOut of the UnknownZ CarsSix Days of JusticeNew Scotland Yard, seven Armchair Theatres, four Dixon of Dock Greens, Whodunnit?Special BranchPublic EyeCrossroadsShoestring and Hammer House of Horror.  Big films she had small roles in include The Happiest Days of Your LifeReach for the Sky and Revenge of the Pink Panther.

Also:

This lady, who isn’t credited, despite getting a big (and ridiculous) dramatic moment.

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The jury:

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That remarkable green and orange ensemble (almost the exact hues favoured by Spider-Man’s nemesis Dr Octopus) are obviously the standout this week, though the pair on the end with the matching his and hers hairdos are certainly pulling their weight too.  Our foreman this week is Rex Arundel, who previously played a witness in the unaired Crown Court pilot, Case 0: Doctor’s Neglect?

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The verdict (highlight to reveal): Not guilty.

Case notes:

  • SIGNS OF THE TIMES: There are lots of references to the property boom of the early 70s.
  • At the beginning of Part Two we get a good look at this, which is presumably the crest of Fulchester or whatever county it’s in.

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  • Pauline Ellis is listed in the credits of Part Three as “Pauline Elli”
  • There’s some damage to the existing tape of Part One, leading to picture distortion in the first half of the episode.
  • Mrs Whittaker lives in the district of Medley Green, which was home to the Holt-Matthews family in Case 11: Criminal Libel.
  • Last week’s case was centred on the Collins family, and this week’s is centred on the Collings family, which is a bit odd.

Summing up:

Unfortunately the conflict between the two sides of the Collings family isn’t sufficiently scandalous to be interesting, and there are a few quite aggravating moments – the ludicrous “masked lady” interlude, the girlfriend of Alan Collings being allowed to sketch in the history of the Collings conflict unchallenged, the utter pointlessness of Mrs Collings taking the stand, and the complete lack of explanation of why a picture of Pauline Ellis in a bikini would appear in a newspaper.

Elsewhere on TV this week:

Monday sees the broadcast of the famed John Betjeman documentary Metro-Land.  On Friday, Terrence Hardiman, Crown Court‘s Stephen Harvesty, makes an appearance as a barrister in Yorkshire Television’s Margaret Lockwood vehicle Justice.  I’m going to ignore the fact that his character’s called Higson and declare this  a crossover (we’ll later see Harvesty with the same extensive facial foliage Mr Hardiman sports here).

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In the charts:

Slade stomp straight in to the number one slot (a rare and impressive feat back in the 70s) with this:

You can see the full chart for the week here.

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