I know in my last Captain Hastings post I wrote that The Third Floor Flat would be the next episode to receive the Eclectic Ephemera treatment but, although it is the excellent adventure I remembered it to be, it doesn't show the dashing Captain Hastings' sartorial splendour to best effect as bar the first couple of minutes he (and everybody else) spends the entire episode in evening dress. Likewise the next story to feature the good Captain - Problem At Sea - features only a couple of holiday outfits. I have decided, therefore, to skip over these two episodes (returning to them at a later date, probably as a double-header) and move straight on to The Incredible Theft.
The story opens with a beautiful fighter prototype being put through its paces over an English airfield. It looks remarkably like a Spitfire, doesn't it? ;) For the purposes of this dramatisation, however, it is the new Mayfield Kestrel. The Germans would love to get their hands on the blueprints of this aeroplane and company owner Tommy Mayfield, with government minister Sir George Carrington think they know who they will use - American socialite and Nazi sympathiser Mrs Vanderlyn. Mayfield has invited her to a weekend party at his home with the intention of entrapping her, much to Mrs Mayfield's consternation.
|Who could fail to be impressed with Hastings red/white striped shirt, cleverly set off|
with red/gold striped tie, a beautiful red/cream/grey check-pattern cardigan and grey trews?
We find Poirot more interested in "instructing" Hastings "in the care of patent leather". Hastings meanwhile, in his keenness to impress a young lady architect, is deep in thought about "cubic thingummies". (Quite why anyone would have nothing to talk about with our favourite fellow - and foist them off on their mums! - I can't understand).
|It's not that bow dress but one very much like it (to this untrained blogger's eye).|
Some nice detailing around the neckline. A halter neck or something, I think?
Miss Lemon is annoyed (what else? ;p) that Mrs Mayfield keeps telephoning for an appointment without giving her her name, as it messes up her filing. Poirot chides her mockingly, so the next time Mrs Mayfield calls...
|Not one but two Miss Lemon pics! A better look at the dress.|
Poirot, having spoken to Mrs Mayfield, agrees to also attend the upcoming soireé to keep an eye on things. Off go Poirot and Hastings to the country.
(On the subject of dresses, no post on The Incredible Theft would be complete without featuring The Incredible Dress - namely Mrs Vanderlyn's silver lamé number. We often see pictures of 1930s film stars wearing the lamé dresses that were popular at the time but the black and white photography tends to rob them of their impact. No such problem here!).
Mrs Vanderlyn makes her entrance:
Hastings doesn't. Why wasn't he invited to the party, that's what he wants to know. Poor old Hastings! But Poirot wants him as his man on the outside, so it's off to the local hostelry for the Captain.
|Stylish even in the dark! Difficult to see here, but it looks like the good old Hastings|
staple of grey/brown jacket/trousers, striped shirt, matching tie and sleeveless pullover.
The plans for the Kestrel are indeed stolen as feared - but not as anticipated! In a panic, Sir George and Mayfield insist on having Mrs Vanderlyn searched - even though it's the middle of the night.
|Mrs Vanderlyn looks better here than in that lamé dress, if you ask me.|
With her hair down and in nightwear she presents a quite different picture.
With the search proving fruitless Inspector Japp and half the local police force turn up at Sir George's request, filling up the local inn when they're not looking for the stolen papers. Hastings' problems just get worse and worse as he is forced to share a bed with Japp!
"Poirot my dear fellow I promise you you've never heard anything like it. You know those boots he wears? Bang! and the other one, crash! When he finally gets in to bed it's worse. He talks in his sleep. 'Now I've got you, young fella m'lad, Japp of the Yard strikes again!' I thought I'd go mad! Every time I managed to drop off he starts shouting. 'Stand back lads, he's got a blancmange!'. Some of the things he was saying were enough to make a cat laugh. I can't take much more of it, Poirot, and I've been through three days of a Jerry barrage."
|A splendid country jackets partially hides a superlative Fair Isle slipover.|
On the way back to Mayfield's house it becomes clear to Poirot how Mrs Vanderlyn intended to get hold of the plans. He rushes (yes, a rare occurrence of Poirot actually running!) to find Hastings and his Lagonda so they can follow her and see where she goes but, perhaps in an effort to take his mind off Japp's nocturnal habits, Hastings has taken the opportunity to remove the spark plugs from his car to give them a bit of a clean.
|A much better view of that wonderful Fair Isle|
With the Lagonda out of action Poirot and Hastings "borrow" a nearby police car and the chase is on! Put Captain Hastings in a speedy car and there's no holding him back! He runs the full gamut of emotions and even starts telling Poirot what to do, as they dash after Mrs Vanderlyn's Rolls-Royce.
|Another glimpse of the Fair Isle and also the arm bands so his shirt sleeves don't|
fall in to the sump!
Alas even Captain Hastings' spirited driving is not enough to stop Mrs Vanderlyn from reaching the nearby country residence of the German ambassador, where she deposits the plans. By the time they've returned to the Mayfield house, though, Poirot has the whole case worked out right down to the last minute plot twist - which I won't give away here - that ensures everything turns out all right in the end.
All that remains now is for Captain Hastings to drive Poirot and Japp home in his own car. Even though it is one of the rare occasions where he has to sit in the back of the Lagonda Poirot is happy for Hastings to "drive on!" now that he hasn't got an important document and American infiltrator to chase after.
|A final look at the full ensemble.|
So ends another adventure for our favourite crime fighters. The Incredible Theft ranks among my favourites of the early Poirot episodes not least because of the presence (albeit brief) of a Spitfire and, of course, Captain Hastings(!) but also the funny conversation about sharing a room with Japp and the great car chase at the end of it. (These are all, to a greater or lesser extent, from having the likes of Clive Exton - who also worked on Jeeves & Wooster - Anthony Horowitz and David Renwick on the production team).
Once I have revisited The Third Floor Flat and Problem At Sea the next episode to get some attention will be The King of Clubs. Until then, I leave you to enjoy the episode that has just been featured: