(originally broadcast 12/28/1958)
This is a live episode from the UK anthology series, Armchair Theater. This series ran 457 episodes between 1956 and 1974. A top notch bit of UK noir.
It is New Year's Eve, and the board of directors of a construction company are gathered for a few drinks. The men, Raymond Huntley, Allan Cuthbertson, Fred Bartman and Peter Swanwick are surprised by the sudden appearance of Stanley Baker.
Baker refuses to leave and tells the men to shut up and listen. He asks the men if they recognize him. "Yes" responds Swanwick. "You are that bank robber who escaped from prison last month. Your picture was in the papers for several weeks." Huntley reaches for the phone and Baker pulls a gun, he then says, "Make that call and your wife dies." Huntley replaces the phone.
Baker tells them he has men at all their homes, and is holding their wives hostage. He tells Swanwick to call his house and ask for Joe. Swanwick does as instructed and hands the phone to Baker. "You know what to do if I do not call at the right time." He then sets the phone down. "My men will kill your wives if anyone calls but me." "Now, down to business." Baker tells the men they are going to help him break into the bank vault next door. "You will do this or something nasty will happen to your wives." "Do as you are asked, and they will go free when this is over." "You men know how to handle the equipment I need to break in. We have 10 hours, so let's start." Baker corrals the four into a basement room where the bank's wall is. He wants to be through the vault wall by midnight.
The men set to work with sledgehammers etc. They load the dirt and stone into some duffel bags and dump it in the corner. Everything is going smooth till they nick a water pipe. They wrap it and shore it up with a piece of lumber.
Now an unforeseen problem arrives. The night watchman comes into the office. As he enters the basement, Baker grabs him, slips a bag over his head and applies a gag. He then sticks him in a closet. Problem solved.
Now we find that Swanwick is helping Baker. It seems that Swanwick's wife is Baker's ex. Help Baker, or she'll leave him, he was informed. Plus, he had been dipping into the company funds. His end of the robbery would pay back the company. And of course Baker's story of men holding the wives hostage is a crock.
We also find out that all four men are all having cash flow problems. One has an expensive mistress, one a new house, and so on.
The men make it through to the bank vault. A Jackhammer is used to break through the concrete. Then a cutting torch is needed to get through the re-bar.
Success! Baker crawls into the vault and begins to fill several duffel bags with cash. He then crawls out and starts to change out of his coveralls. He notices he is missing the chain and medallion he had been wearing. He crawls back into the tunnel to have a look for it.
But b this time, the nicked water pipe has soaked the earth...and the whole tunnel collapses on Baker! He is dead.
Bartman rushes to the closest to release the watchman. He returns and tells the others that the man is dead. The gag had been too tight.
"We must call the Police " "NO" says Huntley. "Who would believe we were not in on the vault robbery. We could have claimed we acted under duress helping him. But now, where a man has died, duress is not a defense. We need to think this out."
Cuthbertson now pulls Baker's pistol out of his pocket. He had lifted it from Baker's coat when Baker went back into the tunnel for his medallion. "I'm not going to jail!" He grabs one of the duffle bags. "I'm heading to France to hideout. I can be out of the country by dawn."
Out of the basement he rushes into the arms of a Policeman. The Cop (Fred Kitchen) was wondering where the night watchman was and was having a look
Huntley joins them just as the copper disarms Cuthbertson. "Thank God constable! He just shot the watchman downstairs." Huntley points the way. Kitchen drags Cuthbertson along as he heads downstairs. Huntley picks up the duffel and calmly walks out of the office.
Huntley happens to be a pilot, and has a small plane at a private airfield. He will take Cuthbertson's advice and flee the country. As he walks down the street, a small trickle of dirt and sand begins to fall from the bag. Needless to say, there is no money in the bag.
What a great ending for a pretty intense bit of television.
Baker had roles in THE HIDDEN ROOM, CLOUDBURST, HOME TO DANGER, THE GOOD DIE YOUNG, HELL DRIVERS, BLIND DATE, HELL IS A CITY, THE CRIMINAL, A PRIZE OF ARMS and ROBBERY. (b/w)