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Month: December 2013

October Man, The (1947)

October Man, The (1947)

“An injured brain isn’t always logical.”

Synopsis:
A brain-injured man (John Mills) suffering from PTSD feels renewed hope for the future when he falls in love with a caring, beautiful young woman (Joan Greenwood) — but when he’s falsely accused of murdering a neighbor (Molly Newman), he must struggle to clear his name and convince police about the true identity of the killer.

Genres:

Review:
Roy Ward Baker’s directorial debut — based on a novel and screenplay by Eric Ambler, who also produced the film — remains an intriguing if mildly disappointing exploration of the effects of trauma on one’s sanity and well-being. After a taut opening sequence — during which Mills’ “Jim Ackland” witnesses the death of his friend’s young child (Juliet Mills) in a train crash while sustaining a significant brain injury — we experience brief joy on his behalf as he slowly begins to find peace and happiness, then suffer with him as he’s cruelly taken advantage of by both a vicious gossip (Joyce Carey) and a sociopathic boarder (Edward Chapman). The parallels between Jim’s story and those of countless other WWII veterans suffering from PTSD are unmistakable and poignant — so it’s especially frustrating to find that the pacing and tone of the film become far too leisurely for the potentially gripping material. Atmospheric cinematography and fine performances (by Mills and the supporting cast) make it worth a one-time look — but, as noted by Craig Butler in his All Movie Guide review, “There’s so much that’s good about The October Man that it’s a shame it doesn’t end up as a really good film, rather than a merely satisfactory one”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Mills as Jim Ackland
  • A fine supporting cast
  • Erwin Hillier’s noir-ish cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended.

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Shot in the Dark, A (1964)

Shot in the Dark, A (1964)

“I suspect everyone!”

Synopsis:
A bumbling detective (Peter Sellers) is assigned to investigate a series of murders in which a beautiful maid (Elke Sommer) is the prime suspect.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Blake Edwards Films
  • Comedy
  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • George Sanders Films
  • Murder Mystery
  • Peter Sellers

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is clearly an enormous fan of this sequel to Blake Edwards’ The Pink Panther (1963), with Peter Sellers returning as the inimitably “prideful yet stupid, bumbling, and accident-prone Inspector Clouseau”. He argues that it’s a “hilarious… farce”, and that while “the storyline” (based on a play) “is fairly conventional”, “Sellers makes it unique”. He writes that “like Don Adams’s Maxwell Smart, [Clouseau] never realizes that he’s anything but a lethal, supercool detective, although everyone else sees that he’s a fool”. I’ll agree with Peary that Sellers is masterful here; one watches his portrayal with admiration and an occasional chuckle. But the film itself — while certainly watchable — simply hasn’t held up all that well. Comedies are notoriously challenging to call out as either successful or not, given how uniquely each viewer will respond to (potentially) humorous material; for my money, the Pink Panther films are semi-decent vehicles for Clouseau’s pratfalls, but little else.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actors of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
  • The clever opening credits
  • Henry Mancini’s score

Must See?
Yes, simply to see the best of the popular “Pink Panther” series. Nominated by Peary as one of the Best Films of the Year in Alternate Oscars, though I don’t believe it deserves this status.

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