Paranoiac (1963)

Paranoiac (1963)

“You cannot possibly have seen Tony; he’s dead.”

When a mentally unstable woman (Janette Scott) believes her long-dead younger brother (Alexander Davion) has arrived back at their home, her older brother (Oliver Reed), guardian aunt (Sheila Burrell), and caretaker nurse (Lilian Brousse) remain skeptical about his identity. Meanwhile, Reed accuses his family’s accountants (Maurice Denham and John Bonney) of embezzling money from their inheritance.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Inheritance
  • Mental Breakdown
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Oliver Reed Films
  • Orphans
  • Psychological Horror
  • Siblings

Freddie Francis turned out stunning cinematography for more than three dozen films, including the Peary-listed titles Room At the Top (1959), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Sons and Lovers (1960), The Innocents (1961), The Elephant Man (1980), The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), and Dune (1984). Francis directed an equal number of films during his lengthy career — though sadly, none nearly as noteworthy. This Francis-directed Hammer Studios thriller, atmospherically shot by in-house DP Arthur Grant, is ultimately a missed opportunity. The storyline centers on greed, deception, and insanity — and given that most people on display are not-who-they-seem, we’re kept on our toes about who exactly is playing what mind games with whom; but too many of the characters are unlikable, and the conclusion is unsatisfying. This one is primarily worth a look for its visuals.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No, though fans of psychological horror flicks may want to check it out once.


One thought on “Paranoiac (1963)

  1. Agreed; not must-see. As per my post in ‘Revival House of Camp & Cult’ (fb):

    “I’m mad! I’m insane! I’m dirty!”

    ‘Paranoiac’: Who in this story of inheritance is actually mad?, insane?, dirty? Why is the dead younger brother coming back to haunt his sister? Why does Oliver Reed over-act? Did he have no choice? Why does Sheila Burrell as Aunt Harriet over-act? (See previous question.) Why does Janette Scott (as Eleanor) not know her older brother and her aunt are bonkers? Does anybody in the Ashby family actually have a job? (Although they seem to have money somewhere, no one seems to have access to it.) And what’s with the French chick?; what’s *her* backstory?! Why is her bedside manner not-so-soothing?: “He’s DEAD!” Why did a terrific DP like Freddie Francis choose material like this early on in his directing career? Why did screenwriter Jimmy Sangster write so many scripts in which people were forced to over-act? (Hint: Money.) In a reasonably long career, will Alexander Davion only be remembered for this and ‘Valley of the Dolls’ (as Ted Casablanca – as in “Ted Casablanca is not a fag!”)? …So many questions!

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