Career criminal Pinky (Richard Jordan) is an American in a British jail, but the good news for him is that he is being released tomorrow. He has a chat with the warden (an uncredited Joss Ackland) about how he should seriously consider going straight in light of the amount of time he has wasted inside, and as a parting shot Pinky fixes the warden's wife's toaster for him. Once on the outside, he is picked up by his old friend Foxy (Oliver Tobias) and taken back home to stay with Foxy's mother (Gloria Grahame), but he will soon have to be thinking about the unthinkable: getting a steady job.
A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square appears as if it should have been based on a true story, so similar is its plot to daring bank heists of London infamy, but there's a disclaimer at the end saying that all incidents and characters portrayed herein are fictitious, and so on, you know the drill, so perhaps it was all made up in the imagination of screenwriter Guy Elmes. Not only was this his last film, it was the final work of director Ralph Thomas, best known for his light touch on the Doctor series of comedies, and he is capable if uninspired here.
In fact, that could sum up the film as a whole, with the thorough professionalism you might expect from a British television series of the seventies, maybe something made by Euston Films. As with many United Kindom genre movies, this also had an international cast to better appeal to those lucrative Continental markets and of course the American box office, although how well a work so specific to London might do overseas is a moot point. As it is, many have fond memories from seeing it on late night television over the years.
And in truth it's perfectly reasonable entertainment, with American Jordan fitting adequately enough into a role where he is threatened by the London criminal underworld led by that gentleman's gentleman, David Niven, here playing mob boss Ivan. His men are made up of a few handfuls of Brit character faces recognisable from much the same kind of thing over the years, and they all turn up at the international bank that Pinky gets a job at as Ivan strongarms him into setting up a large scale robbery there. Pinky is reluctant, well aware this will earn him another stretch in prison, but there appears to be no way out of it.
If there's one thing wrong with A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, apart from a title which misrepresents the plot (it's not a musical, although a disco version of the song is heard just to inescapably date the film), then it's that the narrative is rather flabby, taking its own sweet time to get around to the robbery centrepiece. If you don't appreciate the local colour, and there's plenty of it, then you may find your attention wandering, but when it does resolve itself in the last half hour you'll see the preparation was not entirely in vain. Throw in a gratuitously naked Elke Sommer and a pause for an ad for a global fast food chain, and for the rest you have a movie which celebrates the lovable rogue without much flair, but gets the job done. Music by Stanley Myers.