Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace was a prolific British crime writer, journalist and playwright, who wrote 175 novels between 1898 and 1932. In 1959, Nat Cohen and Stuart Levy, managing directors of distributor Anglo Amalgamated (UK), acquired the film rights for the entire Wallace library. Over the next four years (1960 - 64) 40 Tales of Edgar Wallace stories were filmed. Because they have been shown as The Edgar Wallace Mystery Hour (or Theatre) on US TV and also been used in the UK as late night fillers, many viewers believe the Edgar Wallace series to be have been made for television. But they were originally produced for the cinema screen.
Produced at Merton Park Studios in South West London, the Edgar Wallace films were of the low-budget variety, often filmed in the space of a week in the studios and the neighbouring streets and starring mainly British actors who were paid on a daily basis. They were B-Movies which often accompanied the main feature in the days when you got two films for the price of one. Responsible for producing the films was Jack Greenwood who had churned out similar productions such as the Scotland Yard series (1953-61) introduced by criminologist Edgar Lustgarten. The Edgar Wallace films are also remembered for their distinctive opening guitar theme, Man Of Mystery*, over a revolving bust of Wallace, although less than half of the films originally opened like this.
The first film to go before the cameras was 1960s Clue of the Twisted Candle starring Bernard Lee, and this, like all subsequent Wallace tales had to be updated to bring it into the 1960s. (Twisted Candle for example was originally written in 1916). It should also be noted that not all of the filmed Edgar Wallace Tales were written by Edgar Wallace. When shown on US television the films were edited down to fit into a sixty-minute time slot. Due to the way the TV series was packaged there is some confusion as to how many Edgar Wallace Tales were told. On US TV (and later in the UK) some British B-Movies not made for this particular series simply had the Edgar Wallace titles and theme added to them (this may be true of some films originally released under the Scales of Justice series - 1962 to 1967). The last film to be shot under the Tales of Edgar Wallace banner was Face of a Stranger in 1964. Many British stars appeared throughout the series including Harry H. Corbett, Paul Daneman, Jack Hedley, Patrick Allen, Michael Gough, Alfred Burke, John Le Mesurier, Jack Watling, Rosemary Leach, Dawn Addams and others, many appearing in more than one film.
The Nat Cohen and Stuart Levy contract was not exclusive and the Danish/German company Rialto also obtained film rights from the Edgar Wallace estate although these met with little commercial success. So although not strictly a TV series, the US TV syndication and the films often repeated appearance on British television adequately qualifies the Tales of Edgar Wallace a place in Television Heaven. (Review: Marc Saul)
* It is unclear if the version of the theme tune "Man of Mystery" played over the credits was recorded by The Shadows. It is certainly a different version from the one that appeared on the 'b' side of their 1960 hit single 'Apache.' The theme was written by Michael Carr (1905 - 1968), real name Maurice Alfred Cohen, best remembered for the song 'South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)', written with Jimmy Kennedy.
Among Carr's other compositions was the Shadows' hit 'Kon-Tiki' and he co-wrote the theme song to the TV series The White Horses.
Published on February 6th, 2019. Written by Marc Saul (2010) for Television Heaven.