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Obsession

Posted by martinteller on November 24, 2012

“You see, I decided what to do with the next one before you even met my wife.  And you, Bill, are the next one.  Yes, I know exactly what I’m going to do.  I’m going to kill you.”

Dr. Clive Riordan (Robert Newton) has caught his wife Storm (Sally Gray) in the latest of a long string of infidelities… this time with the American Bill Kronin (Phil Brown).  Riordan has resolved to murder the young man, but it won’t be an impulsive crime of passion.  His carefully conceived plan involves months of captivity and a tub full of acid.  But even the perfect scheme can be foiled by a nosy Scotland Yard inspector named Finsbury (Naunton Wayne)… or a loyal dog.

Newton is wonderful in a James Mason-esque performance, all buttoned-up British reserve on the outside and cruel, vengeful obsession on the inside.  Although the film doesn’t traffic in edge-of-your-seat thrills, it has a grim, oppressive atmosphere in Riordan’s secret prison.  It becomes a battle of wits, very much along the lines of Dial M for Murder, as he tries to carry out and conceal his plan, while Bill tries to break his resolve, and his wife and Finsbury try to figure out if, how and when the murder has occurred.  Wayne — best known to me as “Caldicott” from The Lady Vanishes and subsequent films — is highly enjoyable as the detective, very wry and Columbo-ish.  Gray unfortunately doesn’t have a whole lot to do, but performs nicely in her few scenes, especially the initial confrontation.  Brown — typically a minor player (though forever enshrined in geek history as “Uncle Owen” from Star Wars) — is easily the weakest of the cast, but I certainly wouldn’t call him bad.  He has a couple of good moments.

The film is generally clever in its construction and undoubtedly riveting, but I have a few issues.  I wish more had been done to explore Riordan’s psychology.  I’m not wanting a Norman Bates-style psychiatric profile (heaven forbid) but a little more of a peek inside his psyche might have given the movie a bit more edge.  I also thought Finsbury’s policework could have been more compelling and crafty.  The cat-and-mouse element of the story needed more interesting turns.

But on the whole, it’s a very entertaining and slightly twisted movie.  This makes the fifth noir I’ve seen by director Edward Dmytryk, and although none of them have truly knocked it out of the park, they’ve all been satisfying.  Rating: Very Good (81)

IMDb
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