“Sometimes at night I can’t sleep. I get up and I go to the mirror, and I stare at myself. Something strange seems to happen — it’s as though somebody else is staring back at me.”
A museum employee (Eleanor Parker) suffering from recurring headaches is hypnotized by a psychologist (Richard Boone), who discovers that she has three distinct personalities: meek Elizabeth, tawdry Lizzie, and contented Beth.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Eleanor Parker Films
- Hugo Haas Films
- Joan Blondell Films
- Joanne Woodward Films
- Multiple Personalities
- Psychological Horror
Released the same year as The Three Faces of Eve (starring Oscar-winner Joanne Woodward), Hugo Haas’s Lizzie tells nearly the same story on a B-level budget, yet remains a surprisingly effective — and all-too-little seen — psychological thriller. Reviews at the time of its release, however, were tepid at best. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times, for instance, called Lizzie “a foolish and generally tedious film”; then again, he also referred to …Eve as “simply a melodramatic exercise — an exhibition of psychiatric hocus-pocus– [which, like Lizzie] leaves one feeling gypped and gulled at the end.”
These days, especially after the airing of Sybil (1976) on television, Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is much more widely known by the general public, and no longer quite so mysterious. Indeed, its name has changed — it’s currently referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) — and there is ongoing controversy over the veracity of its diagnosis. Nonetheless, MPD/DID remains ripe material for cinematic exploitation, given that there’s something undeniably fascinating — indeed, horrifying — about witnessing someone who is literally possessed by a “foreign” entity. While Lizzie isn’t a perfect film — things are wrapped up far too neatly in the end — it remains a compelling and scary little drama, well-worth watching at least once.
Note: Shirley Jackson — author of “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House — wrote the novel upon which Lizzie is based, originally entitled The Bird’s Nest.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Eleanor Parker’s impressive performance as the psychologically fragmented young woman
- Joan Blondell and Hugo Haas’s neighborly banter, which adds some much-needed levity to the proceedings
- Nifty low-budget use of double-exposure to show both flashbacks and Elizabeth’s shattered state of mind
Yes. This precursor to The Three Faces of Eve proves that a B-level budget doesn’t prevent a film from being an effective, well-acted thriller.
- Noteworthy Performance(s)