They head to a tea shop and we soon learn that the two are married. Despite his earlier creepy glares in the dark ride Teddy seems to be genuinely devoted to his wife, Monica "Mony" Baer. Wait, does that make him Teddy Baer? Yes, it does. And the relationship seems more like mother and son than husband and wife.
Back home we meet the equally devoted and simple-minded maid Effy (Kathleen Harrison) and an officious family lawyer Philip Mortimer (Robert Flemyng). Mortimer is there to discuss Mony's new will. He advises her against leaving the estate to her layabout unemployed husband. She should keep the present will leaving everything to her sister Dora who lives in Jamaica with her wealthy husband. Leave Teddy the house and keep the money in the family the lawyer suggests. "Teddy is my family. All the family I've got," Mony counters. She is adamant that the new will take effect especially after a recent bout with influenza that seemed fatal. She is worried about Teddy's future. "I always thought your marriage to Philip was a mistake," sneers Mortimer. Perfect cue line for Teddy's entrance.
|Teddy (Bogarde) plies his wife with brandy and tea and more brandy|
|Mony in her rocking chair, which becomes a heavy handed symbol by the movie's end|
|Lawyer Mortimer (Flemyng) informs Emmy (Harrison) she will inherit £200|
Lockwood's character gives the movie just the right edge to lift it out of the realm of the ordinary. She has the best lines in the movie which give it a wicked sense of humor. Sitting in Mony's chair and learning that she is in the room where the death occurred she says, "Oh? So we're in the morgue," and throws back her head in irreverent laughter. Her scenes are cleverly written with an ambiguity reserved for only a few other characters. It's never clear whether she has designs on Teddy herself or if she truly has agreed to the terms of their strictly financial arrangement disguised as a marriage.
Based on the stage play Murder Mistaken by Janet Green, later novelized in collaboration with mystery writer Leonard Gribble, the movie successfully escapes the confines of its theatrical origins. John Creswell does a superior job with his screenplay adaptation in taking the story out of its single drawing room set by adding several nicely done exterior scenes, visits to the teashop, a local cabaret (the song "Leave Me Alone" is an ironic commentary on Teddy and Freda's burgeoning relationship), and allowing us to see more of the enormous house. Cinematographer Jack Asher, who would later become known for his camerawork on various horror and crime films for Hammer Studios, gives the film a distinctive noirish look when called for bathing the actors and the oppressive home in menacing shadows.
With the highly melodramatic finale, however, all the creakiness of the play's familiar territory and the staginess of a single room collapse onto what previously had been an above average and often stylish thriller. The dialogue becomes heavy handed, the symbolism of Mony's rocking chair intrudes too often, and the actors chew the scenery with abandon. Kay Walsh resorts to theatrical tricks and postures more suited for the stage than film. Dirk Bogarde so restrained and effectively sinister with terse speeches, unleashes a madman with the fury of a hurricane. His constant shouts of "Get out!" make no sense until the final twist is revealed. What previously been a contained film of cat-and-mouse tactics transforms into a full blown action thriller.
This is my contribution to "Tuesday's Overlooked Films & Other AV" sponsored by Todd Mason at his blog Sweet Freedom. For more writings on neglected movies, TV, video, radio and possibly music please consult the list of other posts here.