Vaughan of the Insurance Agency
When a car on fire goes hurtling over the cliff at Beachy Head the Australian Life Insurance Company is suspicious as whilst it is reported that the driver Mr. Dexter died there was never any body discovered. Insurance agent Roper (Peter Vaughan) is sent down to Brighton to investigate the claim and in-between keeping a close eye on the expenses he can claims discovers a mysterious connection between Mrs. Dexter, his business partner along with the local insurance agent who had recently sold Mr. Dexter his life insurance policy.
"Smokescreen" is the sort of British movie which you watch with not the highest of expectations, why would you when it is one of those movies which has been forgotten about and occasionally crops up on a lesser channel during the day time. Yet when you start to watch the tone of the movie and the performance from Peter Vaughan draws you in yet you still find yourself watching not expecting much. And when it is over you will have enjoyed what happened over the past 70 minutes but know that beyond Peter Vaughan's performance you will forget much of what else happens.
The things is that "Smokescreen" doesn't have the greatest of storylines and is basically your cop investigating a crime except in this case it is a penny pinching insurance agent who sniffs out the truth rather than a dogged cop. As such when we discover that there is something peculiar going on between the supposedly deceased wife, his business partner and the local insurance agent you can second guess how it will play out including a moment of drama born of despair at the end.
But as I said despite the weakness when it comes to the storyline you still find yourself engaged by what is going on and that is purely down to Peter Vaughan who is first class through out. There is to start with his look, the bowler hat wearing insurance agent who sort of smiles but has this strange determined look in his eyes which at times seems a bit psychotic. It makes him immediately curious and a little comical but then we also have his penny pinching ways, switching to cheap flights to claim refunds and not wanting a bellboy to carry his luggage so he doesn't have to tip him. We do learn why he appears to be such a skin flint and it is a surprise but all of the penny pinching is amusing.
What this all boils down to is that "Smokescreen" is a curious movie and in truth one which would be forgettable if it wasn't for Peter Vaughan whose performance makes it an enjoyable distraction.