Wednesday, December 17, 2008


James Mason has been giving a series of university lectures about the psychology of crime; this time, he uses a case study to show how a perfectly sane and rational person could commit murder. As he tells the story, we see it in flashback, and the rational man is Mason himself, a brain surgeon who successfully operates on a young girl to restore her sight and falls in love with the girl's mother (Rosamund John). Though they are both married, they have a brief, furtive affair before deciding they must break it off. A short time later, John winds up dead in what is judged to be an accidental fall from a window at her home. However, Mason picks up on small clues which indicate that John's sister-in-law, Pamela Kellino, may have had something to do with the death, so he gets close to her so that he can engineer a similar death for her. When Mason does finally force Kellino out the window, the narrative takes a breathtaking turn (I would say an M. Night Shyamalan trick, but it's pulled off much more fairly and logically than most of his are). I don't want to reveal it here but suffice to say that there is another tense and well-played half-hour to the movie. The young Mason occasionally looks like Gregory Peck, and the movie itself feels kin to other early psychological thrillers like Hitchcock's Spellbound. There are plotholes galore, but they are easily overlooked, and the ending manages to be both satisfying and, the more you dwell on it, rich in ambiguity. A little gem, available in a good print on a DVD from MPI called Classic British Thrillers. [DVD]

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