Friday, December 02, 2016


The residents of the small British town of Deanbridge include banker Dick Sanford, his daughter Sally, newspaper editor Joe, and Joe's son (and local golf champion) Bob. Sally has been dating Bob but has come to find him a little on the boring side when a new gentleman arrives in the village: the wealthy and slightly mysterious John Preston (Christopher Lee). He claims to have been buddies during the war with a soldier from Deanbridge who was killed. Now, John wants to live in peace and quiet, so he buys up property and rebuilds some moribund businesses, and soon he has become a well-respected community member. He also begins dating Sally, much to Bob's annoyance. But when the local hospital hires a psychiatrist, Dr. Walton (Alexander Knox), John expresses anger, dismissing analysis as no better than voodoo. Bob, spiraling downward after Sally announces her forthcoming marriage to John, plans to shoot John but can't bring himself to do so. Instead, he starts sessions with Walton, trying to work out his anger issues. Surprisingly, Walton soon has another patient: Preston, who has been having recurring nightmares in which he imagines that he is not really John Preston at all. Does Preston have a split personality? Is he dangerous to himself or others? Do his dreams that he has killed a blackmailer mean anything?

The fact that Christopher Lee stars is reason enough for most film fans to assume that this is a horror movie, but it's actually a rather bloodless psychological thriller. Lee gives a good performance as the conflicted hero (or is it anti-hero?), but the rest of the acting is only so-so, the pace is slow, and over forty minutes go by before we get to the meat of the plot, meaning that over half the movie is exposition—and largely beside-the-point information at that. I was never exactly bored, but I realized about 25 minutes in that I had no idea where the narrative was going—not because of any postmodern trickery but just due to lack of incident. There is quite a bit going on in the last section of the movie but it's too little, too late. Knox, whom I like, has the second largest role but is given little to do except listen to people talk. Betta St. John (Sally) co-stars with Lee in a much better movie, HORROR HOTEL. Not a bad movie, really, but not the thriller it seems to want to be. [TCM]

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