Friday, March 14, 2014


A musician on his way to a recital gets a flat tire (we saw an unknown figure puncture the tire); he grabs his violin case and starts to walk, but is viciously rammed against a wall by a car and killed, and a small doll made in his likeness is left by his body. It turns out his is one of four men in town who were part of a post-war commission which accused a German industrialist named Von Strum of collaboration with the Nazis. Von Strum killed himself and, oddly enough, his widow and her son Mark both live in town; she collects dolls, and the two of them seem quite isolated in their creepy house. There are more deaths including a poisoning and a blowtorch to the face, and other suspects turn up; Louise, the daughter of one of the four men, works in a doll store, and her boyfriend, who is interested in helping the police crack the case, is a medical intern who has access to poison. This thriller by Robert Bloch bears some slight resemblance to PSYCHO (which he wrote) and PEEEPING TOM, but it's nowhere near being in their league. The plotting is plain and obvious, the detective (Patrick Wymark) is bland, and the characters are almost all unlikeable. The best acting comes from John Standing, with white-blond hair and a goatee, as the creepy Mark, and Alexander Knox giving the proceedings some class as Louise's father. Margaret Johnston (pictured with Standing) is inconsistent as the widow Von Strum, going over-the-top sometimes and underplaying at other times. There are some nice visual touches here and there from veteran Hammer horror director Freddie Francis, but this is overall too drab to recommend. [TCM]

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