Monday, February 06, 2017


A twisty, intriguing mystery with film noir touches (thematically if not visually) that could benefit from stronger acting and one more pass at the screenplay. The core characters are Hugh Allen (Edward Underdown), a writer nearing middle age who, despite having two published novels, is still toiling in obscurity; Ronald Parker, his publisher who seems a bit of a cold fish; Jonathan Roche (James Robertson Justice), a famous author with a weak heart who insists on ignoring his doctor's warnings that without lifestyle changes, he only has a few months to live; Alycia Roche (Valerie Hobson), Jonathan's wife, who fell out of love with him long ago. There is a fifth person tying the above four together: Jean Bridges, secretary to Parker and potential love interest for Allen. On the night that Hugh is to meet Jean for dinner, she is late and he ends up sitting with Ronald and Alycia. Sparks fly between Hugh and Alycia, but news soon arrives that Jean has been murdered in her bedroom (the event which opens the movie). As the police investigate, our foursome play out their little games. To help her new lover's career, Alycia talks her husband into letting Hugh be the public voice of Merrill, a pseudonym Jonathan is using for some lesser stories he's having read on the radio. It turns out that Jean had been blackmailing Ronald and drained his finances, so Ronald had gone to Jonathan asking for money, though Jonathan turned him down. When Jonathan has a life-threatening heart incident, Alycia considers withholding his medicine from him (shades of THE LITTLE FOXES), then later thinks about taking a more active role in getting rid of him. Meanwhile, the public thinks Hugh has written the popular Merrill stories which rankles Jonathan for a while until he goes to Ronald and finally agrees to give him money in exchange for him pulling a nasty trick on Jonathan and Alycia. All these plot threads come together in a climax right out of film noir, even taking place on a nighttime city street.

This little-known British film, known in the States as MURDER WILL OUT, is worth watching for, though as I noted in the beginning, the acting is generally on the second-string level; Justice is a standout, but Underdown (pictured), theoretically the protagonist, is left in the dust, and Hobson isn't that much better—she sometimes seems to be pulling faces instead of acting. B-director John Gillings pulls off some nice visuals, especially in the opening scene of the murder. The occasionally convoluted plot is kept fairly clear, though lack of background on some of the characters, particularly the murder victim, keep some plot points murky. [Amazon Streaming]

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