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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Diamond’s Edge’: Engaging Private-Eye Spoof

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Diamond’s Edge” (citywide) is an engaging little British crime comedy that’s been several years on the shelf. It’s the kind that you might enjoy on videocassette but is not inspired or uproarious enough to justify the effort and money to see in a theater.

Considering that it’s based on a novel called “The Falcon’s Malteser,” it’s a relief to report that as a private-eye spoof it avoids either slavish or, worse, facetious emulation of ‘40s film noir .

Set in present-day North London in a glorious collection of Victorian settings, including such noble relics as a onetime Turkish bath and the St. Pancras railroad station, it stars Colin Dale as a sharp, spunky 13-year-old who’s the real brains behind his dim older brother (Dursley McLinden), a would-be private eye. The brothers are way behind in the rent on their walk-up office when a South American dwarf arrives with a mysterious package for safekeeping in return for a whopping 200 pounds. The fun and mayhem are soon under way.

The various characters they encounter along the way provide nice turns for such reliable British character actors as the late Roy Kinnear, proprietor of an ancient hotel of decidedly dubious repute, and Saeed Jaffrey as a neighborhood grocer. Best of all, the film gives the opportunity for Susannah York, most recently seen in drab motherly roles, to be her glamorous, witty self as a seen-it-all saloon singer with the wonderful name of Lauren Bacardi. “Diamond’s Edge” (rated PG for some violence) has been ably directed by Stephen Bayly from Anthony Horowitz’s adaptation of his own novel.

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