A Matter of WHO
Directed byDon Chaffey
Written byPatricia Lee
Paul Dickinson
Patricia Lee
Milton Holmes
Harold Buchman
Produced byMilton Holmes
Walter Shenson
Sonja Ziemann
Alex Nicol
Richard Briers
CinematographyErwin Hillier
Edited byFrank Clarke
Music byEdwin Astley
Foray Productions
Distributed byMetro Goldwyn Mayer
Release date
  • 3 October 1961 (1961-10-03)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

A Matter of WHO is a 1961 British comedy thriller film directed by Don Chaffey and starring Terry-Thomas, Julie Alexander, Sonja Ziemann, Alex Nicol, Richard Briers, Honor Blackman and Carol White.[1][2]

A World Health Organization employee tries to trace the source of a deadly virus.


Aboard an airliner flying from Nice to London, an oil driller returning from the Middle East named Cooper becomes very ill. This attracts the notice of World Health Organization self-styled "germ detective" Archibald Bannister. It turns out that Cooper's new wife, Michèle, and his business associate, Kennedy, know each other.

Bannister is reprimanded by his boss, Hatfield, for previously shutting down London Airport because of what turns out to be an ordinary rat. This time, however, Cooper is diagnosed with highly infectious smallpox. There are also outbreaks in Brussels and Zurich. Bannister suspects that all three cases were contracted from a fourth person, a carrier.



It was made at MGM-British Elstree Studios with sets designed by Elliot Scott. MGM records say it lost $142,000.[3]

Critical reception

The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "This latest attempt to emulate Hitchcock never finds a balance between Terry-Thomas's brand of civil service comedy and the surrounding atmosphere of suspicion and peripatetic detection. The mood aimed at is closest to Hitchcock's Secret Agent [1936]; the actual measure of achievement falls far short. The germ-laden needle in a haystack which the two amateur detectives are seeking should have a magnetic attraction for the audience. As it is, a confused script and Don Chaffey's flat direction combine to produce a jaded impression of a number of TV's Interpol episodes running one into another; and Terry-Thomas's none too humorous skirmishing round the haystack ends up forcing from it nothing more deadly than a field-mouse."[4]

Leslie Halliwell said: "Curious blend of semi-documentary with suspense and comedy; not really a starter."[5]


  1. ^ "A Matter of WHO". British Film Institute Collections Search. Retrieved 1 March 2024.
  2. ^ "A Matter of Who (1961)". Archived from the original on 6 February 2017.
  3. ^ The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  4. ^ "A Matter of WHO". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 28 (324): 130. 1 January 1961 – via ProQuest.
  5. ^ Halliwell, Leslie (1989). Halliwell's Film Guide (7th ed.). London: Paladin. p. 663. ISBN 0586088946.