David Garrett (Ian Carmichael) is an astrophysicist at Cambridge who has spent the last few years throwing himself into his work, with no time for anything else, especially now the Soviets are making such progress with the satellite technology he has an expertise in. Well, there is one thing he does apart from his high-pressure job, as to unwind he likes to play chess, and makes a point of setting aside time in his week - his day, even - to get a game in, like today when after a long night's research he heads off to London to a meeting with famed grandmaster Frank Melnicker (George Pravda), all the way from Eastern Europe. If only he knew what he was getting into this time...
Hide and Seek was one of those spy thrillers the nineteen-sixties threw up at a great rate over the decade, seemingly to cash in on the blockbusting James Bond franchise, though not all of them followed that path. Others tended to go the John Le Carré route, presenting espionage with the utmost seriousness and a complete lack of derring-do, which emphasised what a serious matter it was with the Cold War well underway by that stage and no end in sight. Yet there was a third variety, preferring to eschew heroes who were all too capable and aware of what they were doing for a more innocent protagonist, plunged in over his head in a conspiracy he had little control over.
Garrett here was one such as that, best exemplified as a second-rate Alfred Hitchcock hero, the British director seeing to it that his lead characters were kept in the dark about what the hell was going on since he felt it made for better suspense. They were still emulating Hitch in the sixties, and indeed they were still in the twenty-first century as well, such was his huge influence and the enormous debt thrillers owed to his approach and plotting, but nobody was going to watch Hide and Seek and find themselves wishing Hitch had been at the helm, it was too much in his shadow in a variation on The 39 Steps, complete with extensive filming in the British countryside once out of the city.
Carmichael did not wind up handcuffed to his female counterpart, but they might as well have been. She was the mysterious Maggie, played by starlet Janet Munro here trying to parlay her early success into grown-up roles, which saw her career stutter. She was as delightful as she ever was in this, an apparently flighty heroine encouraging Garrett on to fresh heights of adventure without revealing her interest in what he had been landed in until the last act when all was revealed and the extent of the plot was exposed. She essentially played the part of the romantic interest who is kooky enough to arouse the hero's interest to the point that he is willing to get into all sorts of scrapes simply to be around her thanks to her addictive personality, we'd seen it before in screwball comedy and we would see it for decades to come as she became an indie cliché.
But what was this plot? Early on, Garrett finds a large wad of cash in a chess box which he has no recollection of putting there, and realises Melnicker must have put it there. Not wishing to get him into trouble with the authorities, he proceeds to track the brainbox down, or at least that's his plan, only to meet Maggie in her home while a wedding reception full of manically twisting revellers make working out what is going on very tricky. Before long, he is following her along like a lost puppy, if a somewhat irate one, and it becomes clear some very bad men are after them, hence the fleeing across hill and dale, and into a river where they are rescued by boatman Hugh Griffith (seemingly an excuse to see Munro in her bra when she changes out of her wet clothes). Curt Jurgens made a late on showing as a Chatty Cathy mastermind who can explain, and if Hide and Seek was not top drawer, its distributor's reluctance to release it back in 1964 an indication that nobody had faith in it, it wasn't bad overall, eccentric enough to get over its illogicality. Music by Gary Hughes and Muir Matheson.