Friday, March 11, 2016


Three completely unrelated stories of murder, all of which could have been episodes of Twilight Zone or the Alfred Hitchcock Show for their touches of the supernatural and the ironic. The opener, "In the Picture," is set in an art museum. We see a painting of a gloomy landscape dominated by a large house; we hear the glass around the picture break and then notice a man in old-fashioned garb (Alan Badel) sitting in the room, staring at the painting. He suggests to a museum worker (Hugh Pryse, pictured at right to the left of Badel) that the painting would look better if there was a candle burning in one of the house's windows. They walk up to take a better look at the painting and suddenly they are actually *in* the painting. What happens next leading to our first murder is best left unspoiled. The second story, "You Killed Elizabeth," involves two roommates, the gregarious John Gregson and the loyal wingman Emrys Jones. Gregson is a hit with the ladies, but he has also developed a blackout drinking problem. While Gregson is out of town, Jones starts up a relationship with Elizabeth Sellars, but Gregson returns, makes his own play for her, and winds up engaged to her, enraging Jones. Eventually, after one of Gregson's blackouts, Elizabeth is found dead and Gregson wakes up with blood on his hands. Who's the killer, the stud or the wingman?

The final tale, "Lord Mountdrago," is based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham and centers on a battle of wills between two politicians: the esteemed and powerful Mountdrago (Orson Welles) and the self-styled voice-of-the-people upstart Owen (Alan Badel). In Parliament, Mountdrago humiliates Owen, and Owen vows revenge. Immediately, Mountdrago begins having surreal nightmares which, in real life, Owen seems to be aware of. For example, one night, he dreams that he gets up to debate a bill and instead breaks into a chorus of "Bicycle Built for Two" (which leads to a full-on musical number in the halls of Parliament). The next day, Owen makes a puzzling reference to the song to Mountdrago. A psychiatrist tells Mountdrago that apologizing to Owen will get rid of the dreams, but Mountdrago decides to murder Owen in his dreams and see what happens in real life.

Most critics find the middle weak, but I think that's only because it lacks the atmosphere of the uncanny that the other two have. All three are satisfying stories with generally good performances, especially from Badel who, in addition to playing a lead in stories 1 and 3, has the small role of a bartender in story 2. "In the Picture" drags a bit getting to its climax, though the tilted camera angles used in the world of the painting are inspired. "Mountdrago" actually seems a bit rushed—I would have loved a few more minutes of Welles (pictured with Badel) chewing the scenery (in a relatively subtle way). John Gregson reminded me of a British John Payne. Andre Morrell, who appeared in several 60s Hammer movies, plays the shrink in the last story. A solid anthology film, if not quite of the caliber of DEAD OF NIGHT. [Criterion streaming]

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