A desolate moor is the setting for murder, but despite the hackneyed backdrop, Neil Clarke's script for the most part creates genuinely suspenseful drama. Much of the film's credibility stems from strong performances. Shaw plays Don Demarco, an escaped convict who evades the law with his travelling circus act. In his caravan on the edge of the moor, awaiting his next engagement, he loses a disgruntled, thieving wife (David) and gains a caring lover (Stevenson). Meanwhile, obsessive Detective Inspector Atherton (Peck) takes an instant dislike to Demarco, accusing him of one offence after another, from a local robbery to murdering his wife. It's just a matter of time before the past catches up. Amid the elements of kitchen-sink realism, Atherton's character unbalances the film: as he tracks his quarry with the refinement of a rabid dog, it's hard to imagine him lasting two minutes in a real police station. This has less to do with Peck's fine performance than with misguided efforts to inject belly laughs amid more subtle humour.
Ladder of Swords
Cast and crew