FINGER OF GUILT (aka: THE INTIMATE STRANGER)(director: Joseph Losey; screenwriter: Howard Koch/from the novel Pay the Piper by Peter Howard (Howard Koch); cinematographer: Gerald Gibbs; editor: Geoffrey Muller; music: Trevor Duncan; cast: Richard Basehart (Reggie Wilson), Mary Murphy (Evelyn Stewart), Roger Livesey (Ben Case), Constance Cummings (Kay Wallace), Faith Brook (Lesley Wilson), Mervyn Johns (Emest Chapple), Basil Dignam (Doctor Gray), Grace Denbeigh-Russell (Mrs. Lynton, Landlady); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alec C. Snowden; RKO Radio Pictures; 1956-UK/USA)
“Tightly scripted crime thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Known in England as The Intimate Stranger, this tightly scripted crime thriller by blacklisted writer Howard Koch is set in London. Producer Alec C. Snowden was credited as the director, but in truth it was directed by the blacklisted American expatriate director Joseph Losey. Even though the plot line seemed farfetched, the thriller held my interest throughout. Richard Basehart as the imperfect man falsely accused might as well be an alter ego for Losey, while Mary Murphy makes for the cold-hearted bitchy femme fatale that gets under your skin as she does the dirty work for a little man hiding behind her skirt.
In the opening scene, Reggie Wilson (Richard Basehart) is in the medical doctor’s office worried that he’s losing his mind. It’s told in flashback from that point on, until the concluding scene. Reggie’s an American film editor who got blackballed from Hollywood over an affair with his boss’s wife. He came to England and married a Brit, Lesley (Faith Brook). She’s the daughter of the studio head of Commonwealth Films, Ben Case (Roger Livesey). As a result of the marriage, the ambitious and able Reggie got kicked upstairs as a producer, where he’s currently working on a big budget film. During the last few months an American woman named Evelyn Stewart (Mary Murphy) is writing him from Newcastle threatening letters about their relationship. Reggie swears to Ben it’s not true. To settle the matter, for once and for all, Reggie and his wife drive to Newcastle to meet Evelyn. She convincingly sticks to her story, even when questioned by police. Fearing bad publicity if he presses charges and having no proof that she’s blackmailing him, Reggie instead tries to see Evelyn alone to find out what’s her game. Lesley spots him in a pub with her and drives home alone. Ben cancels the film, that was to star famous American actress Kay Wallace (Constance Cummings), a former lover of the producer, and plans to ease his son-in-law out of the business. The puzzled Reggie doesn’t recall Evelyn and begins to seriously question his sanity, her story seems so good.
The conclusion comes with a pat resolution, but by that time I was engrossed in the improbable story and too much impressed with the fine acting to care that much if I was being manipulated.
REVIEWED ON 6/7/2005 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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