A murder mystery involving a diamond smuggling ring. Lewis Forrester and Alison Ford (Robert Beatty and Terry Moore) have an apparently fatal car crash, but Alison survives. After she skulks around in Lewis’s brother Tim’s art studio, he and his remaining brother, Dave (William Sylvester, find a dead model, Jill Stewart (Josephine Griffin). There’s plenty of twists and turns before we’re done with this lot.
The car wreck starts us off (with the usual substitution of a much older car for the burning hulk). And, as in 1944’s Laura, a portrait of a beautiful woman in the family’s (Tim’s) house. Tim is busy painting Jill; she tells him about her date with Henry Carmichael (Allan Cuthbertson). He sort of pre-proposes.
Dave goes up to see Tim, and tells him about the accident. Dave says he’s taking a reporter, Fenby (Terence Alexander), to the inquest; Dave’s a pilot, so they take a DC-3 to Milan (near the site of the accident). Back in London, police are discussing Dave’s whereabouts; they think that he and Lewis have been involved in a diamond-smuggling ring. They theorize, that along with another guy found dead in Milan, Lewis was targeted.
Inspector Colby (Geoffrey Keen) takes a call from Italian police regarding Lewis’s death; apparently Lewis had sent a postcard with a drawing of a bottle to someone in London, but no one knows to whom. Clue or red herring? Inspector Colby figures to talk to Tim. Meanwhile, Jill tells Tim that she’s marrying the priggish, but wealthy Henry. They embrace warmly as she takes her leave.
“She works for me” he says to the Inspector, of Jill. “Nice work” he notes. Anyway, Colby asks him about the card with the drawing; Tim just got a conventional touristy card from Lewis, no mysterious bottle picture. Tim looks in on a guy named Smith (Henry Oscar). That guy had mentioned doing a portrait of his daughter from a photograph. Turns out the woman is Lewis’s companion from the accident, Alison, still presumed dead.
Tim agrees to do the portrait (the one we see at the very beginning). While he’s at work, who looks in on him but Jill. Anyway, Dave returns to London. He says he didn’t really find out anything at the inquest. Before the brothers get back from the airport, we see Alison appear miraculously at Tim’s studio. She seems agitated.
What she does is deface the portrait; the brothers discuss the police interest in the accident–they themselves seem oblivious about anything that Lewis might’ve been mixed up in. When they get back, not only do they discover the messed-up painting, but Jill’s body–wearing Alison’s pink dress. We see Alison walking the dark streets.
The cops are going over ‘just one more thing.’ Tim tells them about the dress, Alison’s dad, etc. In a parcel, the Inspector discovers a Chianti bottle, that is, the same type in the one in the sketch. They bring Henry in to grill him about the Chianti bottle, he more or less fingers Tim as a suspect, due, no doubt, to his status as a “bohemian.”
Now that he’s done with the police for a bit, Tim takes a call from an auto dismantler, Dorking (William Lucas). The guy claims to have Lewis’s car; in fact he doesn’t, but he has access to that funky Chianti sketch, for a certain price. Fenby looks in on Tim, who asks him about (oh, yeah) that stupid sketch. Fenby and Dorking are up to something.
Apparently, the police are onto Dorking, and use Tim to attempt an incriminating blackmail payoff. Dorking stalls; which makes Tim out to be even more hapless in the eyes of the police. Plus the Inspector tells him that Alison’s alleged pink dress (that was found on Jill’s corpse) was in fact Jill’s anyway. His whole problem is that Alison has been very elusive.
That’s cleared up, at least, as she comes back to Tim’s. She doesn’t want him to get Colby. “Why are you afraid? Why are you here?” She describes what’s happened. She was with her dad in Italy, where she met Lewis. She wouldn’t believe it when Lewis clued her in about the smuggling ring her dad was involved in.
The gangsters wanted to bump Lewis off, thus the ‘accident.’ The woman found in the car was a hitchhiker. Alison lets on that she’d been in Tim’s studio (thanks to a tell-tale earring)…she admits that she saw Jill’s body there. The good news is, now that Alison’s available to model, Tim can complete the painting. So touching.
Dave comes back from Paris to find out that Alison is a houseguest. But, of course, now that Tim’s told both Dave and Colby about her, she skips out. That dork Fenby doesn’t have the dumb Chianti card… it’s in the mail or some such. Meanwhile, Alison reunites with her dad. She accuses him of being involved with the smugglers.
The Inspector isn’t happy to not find Alison at Tim’s, but he believes that she was there–her passport is lying around. Switching back to Alison, her dad refuses to turn himself in; she meets up with Tim. Stuff happens quickly, as both Fenby and then Alison’s dad get it (Fenby’s murdrered, dad simply falls out a window).
Strangely, Dave starts getting jumpy, and says he’s splitting for South America. Because he’s in the ring too. We find this out because Tim gets the Chianti card–Dave insists that Tim hand it over, as it fingers him. “I’m just a stooge in the game!” But a pretty deadly game. They fight, very unrealistically. Tim wins.
Finally, thanks to Tim, Colby gets the card. He figures that the card had some invisible ink that named all the smugglers; that is, a handy blackmailer’s tool. The police lab decodes the card. Alison comes back to Tim’s to find that old boy Henry looking for something. She recognizes him from Italy; another one of those pesky smugglers.
He’s in fact Nightingale; he’d killed Jill because she ‘knew too much’. He now tries to kill Alison. Naturally, Tim arrives just in time to have a jolly good very dumb fight with him. Good thing the studio has a loft for Nightingale to fall through. That does it for the bad guys. The happy couple’s happy, the Inspector’s happy, and so am I.
Because this is over. It started out with some cunning, but about the time Alison surfaced, it more or less degenerated into sessions of Colby taunting Tim with ludicrous innuendos about Jill’s murder, and Tim’s huffy denials. The smuggling device really didn’t animate the plot as there was no smuggling to be seen, let alone any diamonds to smuggle.
On top of those less than interesting bits, the Tim/Alison romance happened predictably, lacked believability, and was, well, unbelievably unromantic. Jill seemed to be a more interesting character, but she was the first one to go. We never really get a feel for any of the other characters, especially Tim and Dave, so it’s hard to feel sympathy for any of them.
This might’ve worked better as a simple love triangle; with Jill engaged to Henry, as written, but Tim’s the sensitive, artistic guy she really wants or something. In place of a character-driven plot, we get psuedo fights and a whole deck’s worth of that obnoxious card. Invisible writing isn’t going to make it into the Maltese Falcon.
Kind of a disappointing murder mystery; literally too much plot ties up our attention while the characters, instead of engaging our interest as people, flail about until they become targeted as bad guys. Ok, but not worth staying up for.