HYSTERIA(director: Freddie Francis; screenwriter: Jimmy Sangster; cinematographer: John Wilcox; editor: James Needs; music: Don Banks; cast: Robert Webber (Chris Smith), Anthony Newlands (Dr. Keller), Jennifer Jayne (Gina McConnell), Maurice Denham (Hemmings), Lelia Goldoni (Denise James), Peter Woodthorpe (Marcus Allan); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jimmy Sangster; MGM; 1965-UK)
“An unappealing fright film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The fourth collaboration between writer Jimmy Sangster and cinematographer-turned-director Freddie Francis (“Nightmare”/”Paranoiac”/”Torture Garden”) is a car wreck. Francis as a cinematographer won Oscars for Sons and Lovers (1960) and for Glory (1989), but as a director only made second-rate horror films of no distinction. This low-level Hammer cheapie is an unappealing fright film. It couldn’t be more ridiculous than if it were written by someone with a memory disorder, who cooked up a story where not all the ingredients were added that would make it edible. American character actor Robert Webber gets a rare chance to star and is victimized by Sangster’s terrible script, as he looks shell-shocked at the lines he’s asked to deliver. This film is so bad, that hysteria might be the best side effect the viewer experiences. The fright film suffers from serious plot holes, an unlikable protagonist, unconvincing performances across the board (except for the private detective), and a punchless and unbelievable story.
A mysterious American drifter gets into a car accident in England and loses his memory. The patient, who had no ID on him, is named Chris Smith (Robert Webber) by his London hospital physician, Dr. Keller (Anthony Newlands). After four months he’s treated for a fractured skull, but remains with amnesia. His bills are surprisingly being paid by an anonymous benefactor, and upon his release he’s given a free luxury apartment by the same anonymous benefactor. Chris hires private detective Hemmings (Maurice Denham) to clear up the mystery of his identity, locate the benefactor and learn more about the only clue to his identity–a torn photo of a beautiful woman that was found on him after the accident. The photo is traced to a model, Denise James (Lelia Goldoni), for a gruff gay fashion photographer (Peter Woodthorpe), who says she was slain in a shower Psycho style six months ago. The trouble is Chris keeps hearing voices and seeing the model around his flat and riding in a convertible around London dressed in a mink coat, and he believes he’s hallucinating. Soon the model introduces herself to him as the wealthy wife of the driver in the auto accident and Chris becomes involved in a complex murder plot, as he’s being framed. But luckily Chris continues his romance with the nurse (Jennifer Jayne) he met while in the hospital, and unfortunately for us this story goes off the track in such a muddled, sluggish and dumb way it’s not worth analyzing. It’s the kind of film where one feels any story in a storm will due, and this is any story. Worth seeing only to realize how someone who is so brilliant as a cinematographer could be so inadequate as a director.
REVIEWED ON 6/6/2008 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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