(director: Nigel Patrick; screenwriters: Patrick Kirwin/based on the story “The Trial of Johnny Nobody” by Albert Z. Carr; cinematographer: Ted Moore; editor: Geoffrey Foot; music: Ron Goodwin; cast: Nigel Patrick (Father Carey), William Bendix (James Mulcahy), Yvonne Mitchell (Miss Floyd), Aldo Ray (Johnny Nobody), Cyril Cusack (Prosecuting Counsel), Niall MacGinnis (Defending Counsel), Bernie Winters (Photographer), Noel Purcell (Brother Timothy), Norman Rodway (Father Healy), Joe Lynch (Tinker), Christopher Casson (Father Bernard), John Welsh (Judge), Jimmy O’Dea (Postman Tim); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John R. Sloan; Medallion Pictures Corporation release; 1961-UK)
“The unusual plot twists with religious overtones kept me tuned into this entertaining thriller despite not being a true believer in its fanciful denouement.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Nigel Patrick (“How to Murder a Rich Uncle”) stars and directs this provocative B-film crime drama in the Old Sod that makes the orthodox Roman Catholic’s dogmatic view on miracles a central part of its improbable plotline. It’s based on the story “The Trial of Johnny Nobody” by Albert Z. Carr and the screenplay is by Patrick Kirwin. It’s set in a tiny sleepy Irish village, where both the pub and the church are of central importance.
Warning: spoiler in the next two paragraphs.
The atheist Irish-American author James Mulcahy (William Bendix) gets his jollies by telling the locals that their God doesn’t exist and that their religion is a farce. While drunk, Mulcahy because of his blasphemy, gets into a barroom brawl with most of the male bar patrons and the fight spills out into the street. Father Carey (Nigel Patrick) is called to calm things down, but Mulcahy dares God to strike him dead with his thunderbolts to prove that he exists. Suddenly a stranger appears and shoots Mulcahy dead. When asked his name, he says he’s just a “nobody.” When asked why he killed Mulcahy, the amnesiac shooter claims to have heard a voice with no sound commanding him to kill. The press dubs him Johnny Nobody (Aldo Ray), and the public and the superstitious locals are sympathetic to the killer and support him in his sensational Dublin trial with money and vocal support. When Father Carey is asked by the defense attorney whether or not the murderer acted on the word of God, the court takes a recess and the parish priest retreats to talk to his childhood teacher Father Bernard (Christopher Casson) at the monastery. The teacher casts doubt that God would give someone sanction to kill another over such empty words and asks his former student to look into his conscience to do the right thing when he takes the stand. The priest smells something fishy about some cryptic Bible quoting anonymous letters he received posted from the coastal village of Inishgashel, and he drives down there to investigate and sniffs out a mercenary murder motive over plagiarism between the author vic and author killer when he learns the true identity of Johnny Nobody after meeting his reporter wife Miss Floyd (Yvonne Mitchell).
Miracles are defined in the film as above reason and not against it, and the film presents two questionable miracles for us to consider (it ends on the second miracle, whereby the jury finds the killer not guilty but he gets his just desserts as he gets a fatal heart attack before he can leave the courthouse as a free man). Though things annoyingly get reduced to convenient coincidences before it’s all over, the unusual plot twists with religious overtones kept me tuned into this entertaining thriller despite not being a true believer in its fanciful denouement.
REVIEWED ON 1/15/2009 GRADE: B-