Written by Ray Austin Directed by Paul Dickson

ORIGINAL ITC SYNOPSIS

Music-hall, mind-reading and murder are the ingredients for a mystery to be solved by Randall and Hopkirk when an entertainer is shot dead in full view of the audience.

Death comes to one member of a mind-reading act when reaching the "Russian Roulette" part of the turn when his partner asks a member of the audience to load the gun. One cartridge is live; the others blank. The routine has been performed time and time again, but this time the live cartridge is in the wrong chamber.

The victim is Fernandez. And his partner Abel is accused of the murder.

But Jeff Randall, who is in the audience with Jean Hopkirk, is convinced that Abel is innocent. He has heard the dead man's last whispered words, "He said he would kill me..."

Who is "he"? And who could have switched the bullets? The member of the audience who put the cartridges into the gun was a woman, and she has disappeared.

The ghostly Marty Hopkirk comes forward with the plan to enable Jeff to carry out his investigations at close quarters. Jeff poses as a one-man mind-reading act and is accepted as a replacement on the variety bill - giving a successful performance, thanks to Marty's invisible help. And, behind the scenes, he meets the other members of the company, including the star of the programme, singer Gloria Marsh and the choreographer, Kim.

In searching the dead man's belongings in the theatre storeroom, Jeff is attacked and the only clue to the assailant is a brief glimpse of a pair of feminine legs. But his foray has one useful outcome. He has found old newspaper cuttings which reveal that Gloria and Fernandez were married. Another clipping reports an accident in which Fernandez was exonerated of blame after the death of a man run down by his car.

From these two clues, Jeff is able to piece together the drama and tragedy of blackmail and an impossible love, but not before another murder and a further attempted murder and another attack on himself when he encounters the mystery woman.

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
Production Code: RH/DCW/4011
Filming Dates:
October - November 1968
Production Completed:
Mid-April 1969
Recording Format: 35mm Colour Film
Archive Holding: 35mm Colour Film

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

Anglia: Sun 27 Sep 1970, 3.00pm (B/W)
ATV: Fri 10 Oct 1969, 7.30pm (B/W)
Border: Fri 30 Jan 1970, 7.30pm (B/W)
Channel: Fri 10 Oct 1969, 7.30pm (B/W)
Grampian: Thur 12 Mar 1970, 7.00pm (B/W)
Granada: Fri 10 Oct 1969, 7.30pm (B/W)
HTV: Fri 10 Oct 1969, 7.30pm (B/W)
LWT: Sun 19 Oct 1969, 7.25pm (B/W)
Scottish:
Sat 11 Mar 1972, 8.05pm
Southern: Sun 26 Oct 1969, 7.25pm (B/W)
Tyne Tees: Sun 2 Aug 1970, 9.05pm
Ulster: Fri 10 Oct 1969, 7.30pm (B/W)
Westward: Fri 10 Oct 1969, 7.30pm (B/W)
Yorkshire: Fri 10 Oct 1969, 7.30pm (B/W)
(B/W) = Transmitted in Black and White
(B/W*) = Transmitted in B/W due to ITV Colour Strike
CHARACTERS & CAST
Jeff Randall
Marty Hopkirk
Jean Hopkirk
Gloria Marsh
Snowy
Barry Jones
Tony Lang
Kay
Inspector Nelson
Mark
Fernandez
Abel
Old Lady
Kim
The Doctor
The Ventriloquist
Man with Cards
Call Boy
Chorus Girl
 
Audience Member
Mike Pratt
Kenneth Cope
Annette Andre
Grazina Frame
Arthur Brough
Patrick Holt
Harold Berens
Valerie Leon
Michael Griffiths
James Belchamber
Tony Thawnton
David Jason
Marie Makino
Stuart Hoyle
John Cazabon
John Styles
Simon Barnes
Robin Askwith
Pauline Chamberlain
Victor Harrington
STAND-INS
Jeff Randall
Marty Hopkirk
Harry Fielder
Dougie Lockyer
STUNT DOUBLES
Jeff Randall Rocky Taylor
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Music for this episode was recycled from stock and therefore no release of a soundtrack of That's How Murder Snowballs has been issued.

DVD EXTRAS

Network DVD (United Kingdom):
Commentary by writer Ray Austin and Avengers producer Brian Clemens, Photo Gallery.
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia):

Photo Gallery.

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer Ray Austin
Series Theme & Musical Director
Edwin Astley
Creator & Executive Story Consultant
Dennis Spooner
Creative Consultant
- Cyril Frankel
Producer
Monty Berman
Director
Paul Dickson

Ronald Liles (Production Supervisor)
Gerald Moss (Director of Photography)
Charles Bishop (Art Director)
Philip Aizlewood (Post Production)
Rod Nelson-Keys (Editor)
Jack Morrison (Production Manager)
Jack Lowin (2nd Unit Director)
Brian Elvin (2nd Unit Cameraman)
Denis Porter & Bill Rowe (Sound Recordists)
Guy Ambler (Sound Editor)
Alan Willis (Music Editor)
John Owen (Casting)
Sue Long (Set Dresser)
Bill Greene (Construction Manager)
Val Stewart (Camera Operator)
Michael Meighan (Assistant Director)
Sally Ball (Continuity)
Peter Dunlop (Production Buyer)
Elizabeth Romanoff (Make-Up Supervisor)
Jeannette Freeman (Hairdresser)
Laura Nightingale (Costume Supervisor)
A.J. Van Montagu (Scenic Artist)
Frank Maher (Stunt Co-ordinator)
Cinesound (Sound Effects Suppliers)
and Chambers + Partners (Titles).

Made on Location and at Associated British Elstree Studios, London, England
An ITC Production

THAT'S HOW MURDER SNOWBALLS REVIEW

Ray Austin switched from director to writer for this episode, and while it is one of the classic entries in the Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) series, it has a touch of Scooby Doo about it. For starters, after Kim has engineered Fernandez's death, there appears to be no further reason for the "mystery woman" to appear, 'she' is the suspect and Kim's ability to get away with his crime would surely be best served by his not running around the theatre in drag. Unfortunately, the direction does not help the mystery, as it's very obvious that the woman in the audience who swaps the bullets is rather too masculine to be all that she seems, so the big revelation at the end of the episode is anything but that. Otherwise, if one can overlook these two issues with the episode, it is a thoroughly enjoyable one. Once again, the script plays on Marty's ghostliness to make Jeff appear to be a flawless mind-reader, where in fact Marty is feeding him all the information, but this allows Jeff to become a part of the show's company and further his investigations. The direction, by once-only Randall director Paul Dickson, is competent and makes excellent use of interiors shot on location, and these scenes are well-matched with backstage sequences all of which were filmed at the ABC Elstree Studios. The episode feels very much like an ensemble piece, with no one actor or character (outside of the regulars) given a headlining role, and this definitely helps the identity of the murderer remain under wraps (and in fishnet tights) for most of the episode. All told, That's How Murder Snowballs is a great episode which, due to its "bottle story" nature, affords a welcome change of scene and pace for the series - and which shows off its solitary location to great advantage.

THAT'S HOW MURDER SNOWBALLS DECLASSIFIED

  • Teaser... It is dusk, and the Palace Theatre has attracted a healthy audience for the evening show. The act currently on stage is The Fabulous Fernandez and Abel, who bill themselves as "the greatest mind reading act in the world". Fernandez is on stage, wearing a blindfold, while his partner is down among the audience, strolling up and down the centre aisle. He holds a stamped envelope in his hand, and asks Fernandez to tell him the address it carries. After some deliberation, the mind reader proclaims: "Mr Bernard Kempson, 23 Tudor Close, Watford". Abel asks a member of the audience to read the address, and the audience applauds when it is reveal that Fernandez was correct. Fernandez removes his blindfold and Abel then announces the climax of their act. He holds a six-shot revolver in his hand and reveals that he has one blank cartridge that he will ask a member of the audience to place in the chamber of their choice, then, with the gun aimed at him, Fernandez will foretell on which chamber the gun will fire. Abel walks to the seventh row from the stage and asks a woman to load the gun. The weapon armed, Abel thanks her and aims the revolver at Fernandez, alone on the stage. "Are you ready, Fernandez?" asks Abel of his partner, who confirms that he is. Abel then asks which chamber the gun will fire on? Fernandez declares that it will fire on the third. He is proved right, but the shot mortally wounds him. The cartridge was live. Fernandez falls to the floor, and pandemonium reigns in the Palace Theatre. Jeff Randall and Jeannie Hopkirk, who had been in the audience watching the show, dash to the man's aid. Jeff cradles Fernandez in his arms. The mind reader's last words are "he said he would kill me," causing Jeff and Jeannie to look to Abel, who still holds the gun and shakes his head in denial of the accusation.


  • Production Brief... That's How Murder Snowballs was the eleventh episode to go before the cameras. It was the first television script that erstwhile director Ray Austin had ever written, the commission being made possible by Dennis Spooner, who encouraged the former stuntman when he expressed a desire to write for Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). The episode would be Austin's only script for the series, but he went on to write for Department S and Shirley's World for ITC and The Adventures of Black Beauty for London Weekend Television, in tandem with a thriving directing career, before emigrating to the United States of America in 1978. In the business there, he combined writing and directing and was much sought after for both. In recent years, he has turned his hand to writing novels, his authorial debut being The Eagle Heist (2002).

  • Just as That's How Murder Snowballs would prove to be Ray Austin's solitary writing credit for Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), it also proved to be a one-off engagement for the episode's director, Paul Dickson. Born Alan Paul Dickson in Cardiff on 18th January 1920, he was educated at Llandaff Cathedral School, and later became a boarder at Ellesmere College, where he joined the amateur dramatics group. At the outbreak of war, he applied to the forces as an ordinary soldier, even though he would have been officer material, as he "wanted to experience more". Consequently, he spent seven years in the Royal Artillery and worked with the Special Operations Executive in northern Italy using radar to pinpoint landing operations for Allied agents. After the war in 1946, he entered the film industry working as assistant director for Paul Rotha at Films of Fact, a documentary unit producing public information films, before moving to World Wide Pictures. At the turn of the decade, he collaborated with writer Ted Willis on The Undefeated (1950), a film Dickson directed which told the story of how a disabled ex-serviceman overcame his wartime injuries. The film was nominated for an Oscar and also won a British Film Academy Award, judged as Best Documentary. The next year saw Dickson deliver what many recognise as his most accomplished work, David (1951), a drama-documentary focusing on the life of a school caretaker and poet, David Griffiths. It was made for the Festival of Britain, commissioned to represent Wales. Later, in 1960, he directed Stone into Steel, a 35 minute documentary for the United Steel Companies, which was filmed at their Scunthorpe Works. This won the Best Documentary category at the Venice Film Festival and remains highly acclaimed today. Dickson also showed his flair in the direction of commercial films, beginning with a commission for Unilever, and this work ultimately led to his being invited to ply his trade in the United States, where he achieved some considerable success in the field. Returning to Britain in 1966, he quickly picked up where he left off and made contact with people who he had worked with at Kenilworth Films and the Danziger Film Studios. He soon became a favoured director on television film series such as The Champions and Department S, and also chalked up single engagements on The Avengers and, of course, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), despite having a reputation by then as something of a hell-raiser. In 1980, Paul was appointed Head of Direction at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, where he found great satisfaction in passing on his knowledge of the industry, narrative approaches and filming techniques. Paul Dickson died aged 91 on 6th October 2011.

  • The opening shots following the title sequence, showing the audience exiting the auditorium and descending the stairs, were filmed on a studio mock-up rather than at the Palace Theatre, Watford. Note the wallpaper that doesn't quite match that seen through the double doors from inside the auditorium (the thin dividing line between the light and dark blue strips is missing). This choice was no doubt made due to the difficulties installing cameras and lights in such a small space in the theatre. Consequently, the extras seen in the audience had to be available for both location and studio filming.

  • Exact filming dates for this episode are unknown, but in his DVD liner notes, Andrew Pixley states the filming was carried out between October and November 1968. A fully edited version of this episode was completed in mid-April 1969. It would receive its first UK broadcast on Friday 10th October 1969 at 7.30pm when it aired in the ATV, Channel, Granada, HTV, Ulster, Westward and Yorkshire regions.


  • On Location... Just the one, solitary location beyond the Elstree Studios backlot was utilised in this episode, but it was employed for both exterior and interior filming - the Palace Theatre on Clarendon Road, Watford. More details in Locations: That's How Murder Snowballs.


  • Trivia... When interviewed for Time Screen magazine, Kenneth Cope recalled that the sequence where Marty dances across the stage to meet Jeff was included at his suggestion. "The original scene was Michael standing in the wings, and I appear next to him and was to play the scene like that. As I said to Ray Austin, 'Let's have a bit of fun,' as I as desperate to get some comedy into it. 'Let me appear on the wrong side by accident, as it's always funny when the ghost appears in the wrong place. Let's be shy at first walking across, then let me do a dance and let me get confident, go back and do it again and then come along and play the scene."

  • Another innovation claimed by Kenneth Cope is Marty singing the lyric, "Next day on your dressing room they'll hang a star", when appearing in the doorway of Jeff's dressing room at the theatre. The lyrics hailed from Irving Berlin's world famous song, There's No Business Like Show Business, which was written for the 1946 musical, Annie Get Your Gun.

  • We learn in this episode that Jeff has a less than moral sideline to help pay the rent - he supplies news stories to the press via his old school friend Barry Jones (Patrick Holt). When he reports the death of Fernandez to the press and not the police, he finds himself on the receiving end of criticism from Jeannie and Inspector Nelson, both of whom make digs about "bloody money".

  • We also discover that Jeff once paid Jeannie's salary in kind, with a gold-plate earring with a pearl on the end of it. Marty implies that he is not impressed that it wasn't even solid gold.

  • Marty reveals that even though he is unable to eat a meal, he still frequents restaurants out of habit. He tells Jeff that his last visit to such an establishment was to The Savoy, one of London's top hotels, where he was in the company of the Prime Minister.

  • Due to the tight filming schedule at the Watford Palace Theatre location, the exact same audience of extras are seen sitting in the same seats for performances two nights running. Was there nothing else to do in this town? Or maybe they enjoyed witnessing Fernandez's murder so much that they came back hoping for more!

  • The enhanced definition of the 2017 Blu-ray edition reveals that the show playing at the Palace Theatre when the exterior shots were filmed was Beauty & the Beast. This was the theatre's 1969 pantomime, which was specially written for the Watford Civic Theatre Repertory Company by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, then appearing in the television comedy Do Not Adjust Your Set and soon to come to international fame as part of Monty Python's Flying Circus. A year earlier the two friends had written the theatre's 1968 pantomime Aladdin.


  • Only You, Jeff? For a moment, we think that the old lady at the boating lake can see Marty, and Jeff shares our concern. He then realises that the talkative old dear has seen him taking to "Marty", but that she thinks Marty is one of the ducks bobbing around near the jetty they are standing on.


  • Ghosts and Ghoulies... Marty is the only ghost we see in this episode, even if no-one else can see him - even when he shows off, skipping between the dancing girls on stage.


  • The Vehicles... That's How Murder Snowballs is an episode practically devoid of vehicles. Even Jeff's Vauxhall is notable by its absence, and although two cars appear, they are one car!

1967 Ford Zephyr 4 Mark IV
Registration DLR 477E
Driven by unknown driver
Also appeared in:
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) - 'All Work and No Pay', 'The Man from Nowhere'
1967 Ford Zephyr 4 Mark IV
Registration DLR 477E
Driven by Police Constable

This is the same car as above, now doubling as a Police car.

Also appeared in:
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) - 'All Work and No Pay', 'The Man from Nowhere'

 


  • Seen It All Before? The crew returned to the Elstree Studios backlot, where they had been filming the park bench sequence for the previous episode, Whoever Heard of a Ghost Dying?. The jetty stretching out into the water tank can be seen in the background in those shots, and is used here more extensively for the scene where Jeff talks to Marty and then the old lady.

  • The sequence showing Marty dancing on stage, weaving between the female dance troupe, is all too familiar as the footage had been borrowed and superimposed into an earlier episode, It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water.

  • The song that Gloria Marsh (Grazina Frame) performs on stage, Out to Get You, composed by Chris Andrews, had previously featured in an episode of The Saint, Portrait of Brenda (Spring 1968), where it had been sung by Anna Carteret in a recording studio. Both programmes used the same recording, and the actual vocalist is unknown.

  • The fur traders warehouse interior set seen in Whoever Heard of a Ghost Dying?  was redressed for this episode, notably with the addition of Snowy's office. This set was long thought to have been filmed on location at the Palace Theatre, a suggestion that was made feasible by the one-time presence of a spiral staircase at the theatre, but the layout of the theatre does not support the theory. Additionally, the lighting has a different quality to the scenes shot in the theatre.

  • The hallway set was heavily redressed to double as the theatre foyer, and the interior of the cafe near the theatre had been seen in the series before in For the Girl Who Has Everything, where it was dressed as the interior of The Buttery.

  • The corridor with the sloping floor and industrial lighting was a set that had previously been used in The Champions as the interior of an arctic base in Operation Deep Freeze, a production also directed by Paul Dickson.


  • Cock Ups... This is an episode that features a cock-up before it even begins - in the ITC synopsis provided to television companies and the press. It goes to some lengths to explain what went wrong with Fernandez and Abel's "Russian Roulette" act, describing that "one cartridge is live; the others blank. The routine has been performed time and time again, but this time the live cartridge is in the wrong chamber." In the episode, there is only one bullet in the gun, and it is meant to be a blank cartridge, but it is a live round because it has been switched by the member of the audience asked to load it.

  • Torch singer Gloria Marsh mentions to Jeff that her late husband's mind-reading act, The Fabulous Fernandez and Abel, was not the greatest success. Gloria's singing career has been on the rise, and compared to her husband's act, it is markedly more profitable. Considering that as the episode progresses, we discover that the mind-reading act was only a part of the bill of the variety show at the Palace Theatre, it is somewhat odd that the billboards around the theatre show Fernandez and Abel and none of their fellow acts. Since Gloria is clearly the star of the show and her husband and his partner are quite some way down the bill, surely the advertising should have depicted her with Fernandez and Abel - "The Greatest Mind Reading Act in the World" - as co-stars of a lesser billing? Obviously, this is a directorial choice, but it doesn't make sense within the narrative.

  • At 11 minutes and 37 seconds into the episode, the stage manager arrives to see Jeff's audition piece on stage. As he goes to his seat, Marty realises that he is sitting where the man wants to sit, so the ghost gets up and moves to the next seat. Despite the fact that the stage manager cannot see Marty, he waits for him to vacate the seat before he himself sits down.

  • When Marty bows to the audience, his tie is hanging out. When the shot cuts to a close-up and he is back standing it has magically become tucked inside his jacket.

 
 
  • When Jeff returns the pair of shoes that he has found in his dressing room, Snowy accepts them and explains that they belong to either Fernandez or Abel. Unfortunately, the actor Arthur Brough stumbles over his line and declares that "Those must be for Mr Fernandez's or Abel's". The line would have been either "Those must be Mr Fernandez's or Abel's" or "Those must be for Mr Fernandez or Abel." Brough, however, delivered something in between - but we love Snowy, so he's forgiven!

  • At 41 minutes and 23 seconds, one of Inspector Nelson's colleagues enters the auditorium through the double doors. He slams the door behind him, but it makes no audible noise.

  • At 46 minutes and 34 seconds, Michael Griffiths (playing Inspector Nelson) appears to find something amusing and nearly breaks out of character. In fact, the whole scene feels rather rough around the edges, as though previous takes had been difficult and the cast had broken into fits of the giggles.

 
 
  • In the end credit sequence, titlers Chambers and Partners once again drop a clanger, this time by crediting actor John Cazabon and John Gazabon!

  • And Finally... On Sunday 13th December 2015, Randall and Hopkirk fans (including the team behind this website) gathering for their Christmas get-together were delighted to be introduced to singer-actress Grazina Frame, who played chanteuse Gloria Marsh in That's How Murder Snowballs. Grazina was warmly welcomed and regaled us with stories of her time working on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and other productions made at Elstree. She also spoke of how she worked and became friends with many of the greats of music and television - comedians Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, singer Tommy Steele and actor and entertainer Reg Varney, among many others. Although she had not kept any memorabilia from her Randall and Hopkirk episode, she did bring along the dress which she wore as Gloria Marsh - a dress which she had made herself. A very talented and delightful woman, whom it was a massive pleasure to meet.

 

Grazina Frame meets the RAHDAS gang!

 

Plotline: Scoton Productions / ITC UK Transmissions by Simon Coward and Alan Hayes
Review by Alan Hayes Declassified by Alan Hayes
with thanks to Alys Hayes, Vince Cox, John Holburn and Andrew Pixley

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