Halliday of Scotland Yard
When the alarm goes off on a building the police respond only to find the only person there is the night watchman who shows them around. But when they find that a safe has been emptied Detective Tom Halliday (Jack Hawkins) is called in to head up the investigation where upon he concludes that this robbery is connected to a series of other unsolved robberies all of which involved the same model of safe. Along with his enthusiastic assistant Sergeant Ward (John Stratton) they set about cracking the case.
Charles Frend is a name which I would doubt means a lot to anyone these days, in truth his career as a director was not full of great movies but early on in his career he worked alongside Alfred Hitchcock. I mention that as the opening scenes to "The Long Arm" could have been directed Hitchcock. Those scenes not only see the thief go to work, his identity kept hidden from us but the night time street shots outside of the building are stunning, simple but stunning.
Simple is sort of the word to describe "The Long Arm" as this is one of those 1950s detective movies which is purely about watching Halliday work to deduce who the robber is. And as such it is not about conflicted characters, the criminal under world or big action scenes. For those who expect more that police deduction might be disappointed by the lack of action and atmosphere.
Yet at the same time simple is also wrong as there is a beautiful amount of detail presented in "The Long Arm". To give you just an idea there is a scene following the first robbery where the owner of the business questions why all the staff need to be fingerprinted as they all touch the safe so Halliday tells him it is too find the prints which don't belong to the staff. It is that level of information which makes "The Long Arm" entertaining, that and a series of twists which in some cases are a little predictable.
But alongside the solving of the crime we also have the glimpse of two policemen at different ends of their career. Jack Hawkins delivers one of those solid portrayals of the older detective who has seen it all before and has to try to juggle career with his home life as a husband and father. But then you have the opposite with John Stratton as the keen young detective sergeant who wants to get on and is excited by the job.
What this all boils down to is that "The Long Arm" is an entertaining detective movie for those who enjoy movies which are all about the detail of solving the crime. But it is also only a solid movie and whilst having a nice opening scene lacks the flare to make it feel complete.