It's the dead of night in London and a man is running down the deserted streets, pursued by two gun-brandishing heavies. The man is Phillips (Patrick Macnee), an agent of the British War Office, and he reaches a telephone box to call special agent Dick Barton (Don Stannard) and tell him what he knows. Unfortunately, when he gets through he only has time to blurt out his location and a cryptic message before he is shot dead by the thugs. Barton tells his assistant Snowey (George Ford) that he will investigate, and when he arrives at the telephone box he makes an interesting discovery: a three fingered handprint on the glass window of the kiosk...
The second of the three Hammer Dick Barton films to be made, but the last to be released, this one was based, like the others, on the B.B.C. serial and written by J.C. Budd, Olafur Haukar Grayson and E. Trechmann. Before there was James Bond, there was Barton, and although this investigator didn't get into regular romances with his leading ladies he did get into various scrapes as he fought to save the free world from the schemes of megalomaniacs determined to bring down the iron fist of whatever power they represented on dear old Blighty.
The iron fist in this instance belongs to Serge Volkoff (Meinhart Maur), a criminal mastermind who presumably hails from the Soviet Union, Nazis being passé by this time. He has his own gang including right hand woman Anna (Tamara Desni) and a Chinese assassin (Yoshihide Yanai) who is out to get Barton. Also among his henchmen is the three fingered man, who by chance Barton and Snowey are standing next to at a refreshments stand, drinking cups of tea. This makes Serge and company easier to track down, and work out what their world-shattering plot is.
What they have done is kidnap Professor Mitchell (Percy Walsh) and his daughter Mary (Joyce Linden) with a view to forcing the professor to use his newly created, top secret death ray which they have conveniently stolen as well. It's a ray which shoots down aeroplanes, but what do the villains have in mind? That's what Barton wishes to find out, but not before escaping a murder attempt - not that he lets on to anyone but Snowey that he has survived. Barton must be a very famous secret agent, as he even has his obituary read out on the radio and is frequently recognised, which surely would compromise his work?
Anyway, as far as adventure goes Dick Barton At Bay has an advantage over the first in the series in that while it keeps up the breakneck speed of the storyline, it ditches the comic relief and just gets on with it. Location photography is an advantage as well, especially the baddies' hideout which is a operational lighthouse where they have set up the death ray. As usual, Barton gets into fist fights and is tied up only to escape through his own ingenuity rather than be saved (a clever touch has the boy he sends to fetch the police be accused of lying!). And they certainly get their money's worth out of the Barton theme, "The Devil's Gallop", which is played at the drop of a hat. All in all, not bad, yet it lacks the hilarity of the first film. Other music by Rupert Grayson.