Doc On The Box – Colonel March Of Scotland Yard Ep 1 The Sorceror

colonel-marchColonel March works at the Department Of Queer Complaints, investigating, well, queer complaints. None queerer, it seems, than the pronouncement of John Cusby who barges into March’s office, announces that unless March deals with the psychiatrist who is trying to get Cusby’s wife to kill herself, then Cusby will kill the psychiatrist himself. Having explained the plot, he walks off.

Later, Cusby’s wife is undergoing therapy, which basically involves lying on the couch talking about anything or everything that comes into her head while facing in the opposite direction. But when she goes to leave, the psychiatrist is even quieter than usual – probably due to the hatpin through his heart. But nobody could have got into the room without Mrs Cusby hearing it…

OK, how did I not know about this series? Twenty six episodes of Boris Karloff playing Colonel March, hero of a number of short stories by John Dickson Carr himself. It dates from 1954 and was made in the UK and from the episode titles, it does adapt some if not all of Carr’s March tales. It starts with what appears to be an original tale, however, although Carr does get a writing credit despite, he was apparently unaware of its existence until his mother let him know how much she was enjoying seeing his stories on television.

It’s all a bit odd, moving extremely quickly. The performances are basically what you’d expect from Sixties TV, although the villain of the piece gets a lovely bit of nuttiness as they are arrested, and the script is efficient, making the characters extremely one-dimensional. But it’s not without its charm, even with the incidental music which is sounds like it’s been taken from a St Trinian’s film…

Oh, the plot? Utter rubbish. The idea of a murder taking place behind someone’s back is a nice one, but the solution to how it was committed without Mrs Cusby noticing is rubbish, as is where the body was found. Surely someone could have just… Never mind.

Anyway, I’ve just discovered that for UK viewers, all 26 episodes (apart from The Stolen Crime for some reason) are available to watch on Amazon Prime. I’ll be back with an update when I’ve watched a few more, but despite the flaws, this was an entertaining 25 minutes. It reminded me a little of the radio play that they played at the Bodies From The Library a couple of years ago – oddly rubbish and entertaining at the same time. Well Worth A Look. And if you don’t have Amazon Prime, I’m sure there are episode on Youtube…


  1. Gee, thanks! I’d never even heard of this show. It’s also available on Amazon Prime in the U.S., which I’m fortunate enough to have. I’m going to watch the first episode this evening. Again, many thanks!


  2. Long time rumour that Karloff has an eye patch because the producers misread Carr’s description of March’s ‘bland eye’ for ‘blind eye’ – series is currently screening on the UK channel, Talking Pictures TV


  3. Several years ago, I watched a few episodes and (as you said) they were not without their charm. They were flawed in many ways, but loved to finally see some of Carr’s work come alive. One notable example is the series adaption of “The Silver Curtain.” I wondered how they were going to translate the trick from that story to the small screen, but they found an equally clever alternative that worked for TV. I recommend you read the short story before watching that episode.


  4. This sounds like a lot of fun…if the idea that by giving more money to Amazon I’m effectively helping to pay Jeremy Clarkson’s wages wasn’t so abhorrent to me, I’d almost be inclined to sign up just to watch these. Though perhaps waiting until I’ve read all the stories first is a suitable excuse to delay.


  5. I’ve been waiting to see thiese for years, and was understandably excited when they turned up on Talking Pictures. There were some very good episodes, and even the bad ones were entertaining. Leslie Slote provided a lot of the scripts, and I thought that he was an extremely variable writer until I discovered that this was a pen-name used by Black-Listed American writers who had fled to Britain in order to earn a living. 25 minutes is not really enough time to create a truly baffling puzzle, but there are some nice little touches in THE INVISIBLE KNIFE or THE SECOND MONA LISA. THE STRANGE EVENT AT ROMAN FALL is so blindingly obvious within about three minutes of the start of the episode that you almost want to scream the solution to the protagonists, and DEATH IN INNER SPACE is simply bonkers. Ultimately the episodes depend on the performance of Karloff, who turns in an extremely charming, fey performance. I hope that a DVD release is on the cards at some point in the future. It’s certainly overdue!


  6. I agree that the plot is utter rubbish. As you mention, it is highly unlikely that Mrs Cusby didn’t notice anything and that the body was found there. Also, wouldn’t the victim have cried out ?


  7. This made me think of another past TV series, ‘The Mind of Mr JG Reeder’ a little later than this one it being from the late 60s/early 70s. Do you recall it, or have you come across it? It might be the sort of thing that you may want to look at and review. The TV series was based on the work of Edgar Wallace and to be honest it is too far in the past for me to recall if they are play fair mysteries, although I remember enjoying them at the time. If you are interested I believe that they are available as a DVD box set from Amazon at about £14.


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