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BRIGHTON STRANGLER, THE (director/writer: Max Nosseck; screenwriter: Arnold Phillips; cinematographer: J. Roy Hunt; editor: Les Millbrook; music: Leigh Harline; cast: John Loder (Reginald Parker/Edward Grey), June Duprez (April Manby Carson), Miles Mander (Chief Inspector W.R. Allison), Michael St. Angel (Lt. Bob Carson), Rose Hobart (Dorothy Kent), Gilbert Emery (Dr. Manby), Ian Wolfe (Mayor Herman Clive), Gavin Muir (Capt. Perry), Rex Evans (Leslie Shelton); Runtime: 67; RKO; 1945)
“The film had too many plot holes to be believable…”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A satisfactory thriller set in WW11 England. It’s an old-fashioned mystery tale about an amnesia victim, but it hardly seems credible despite the outstanding performance by John Loder.

Reginald Parker (John Loder) is the noted star of a hit play in London called “The Brighton Strangler.” He plays the part of the strangler Edward Grey that was written for him by his fiancée Dorothy Kent (Rose Hobart). The show is closing after 300 performances because Reginald is tired of playing the part of a maniac and there is no one else who is deemed worthy of being Edward Grey. He plans to marry Dorothy over the Christmas holiday and is scheduled to meet her at Victoria Station after the final show. But while in his dressing room a Nazi bomb hits the Majestic Theater and he suffers from a head injury causing him amnesia. Because of the heavy bomb damage, the newspapers presume he’s dead even though his body hasn’t been found.

In real life Reginald takes over the part of Edward Grey when he hears certain lines from the play that trigger a response in him to start acting as if he were in the play. It’s a dramatic device that other films have since used, including The Manchurian Candidate.

When Grey arrives at the train station in a daze he chooses to go to Brighton because the woman soldier in front of him, April Manby (June Duprez), buys a ticket there.

April kisses an American airman, Lt. Bob Carson (Michael St. Angel), good-bye at the platform. While inside the train she notices Grey is bleeding from a head injury and comforts him. After recommending a hotel to him, she invites the loner over for a Christmas Eve gathering at her family’s house. But Grey is into the part of the maniac strangler, as he hunts down those who resemble the characters from the play. Before he goes over to her house he carries out the first of the three garrottes he does in the play, as he strangles the mayor (Ian Wolfe) outside his residence.

The question I would ask, If Grey is playing a part why do the murders have to be real? They weren’t real onstage. Also, if he is so famous, How come no one recognizes him? Or, what about some literate Brightonite recognizing him after seeing a newspaper photo of him? The film had too many plot holes to be believable, but it is saved by director Nosseck’s good decisions to keep the story moving at a brisk pace, to have a sparse dialogue, and by not padding any of the scenes with subplots or phony psychological explanations. Nosseck thereby kept the story in proper focus.

Grey pretends he’s writing a book and stays most of the time in his hotel room. But April has other plans for him, as she secretly married Bob but doesn’t want to break the news just yet to her parents because her brother was killed a few weeks ago and she doesn’t want to shock them that they are also losing her.

Chief Inspector Allison is curious about Grey, but because Grey is a friend of Dr. Manby and is their frequent house guest in the six days since the murder — he mistakenly lets his guard down when conversing with him in his bachelor’s apartment.

It was hard to tell the difference between a theater set and a real life background shot. But the hokum was watchable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”