Man in the Attic (1953)


(director: Hugo Fregonese; screenwriters: Barre Lyndon/Robert Presnell Jr/based on the novel The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes; cinematographer: Leo Tover; editor: Marjorie Fowler; music: Hugo Fregonese; cast: Jack Palance (Mr. Slade), Constance Smith (Lilly Bonner), Byron Palmer (Inspector Paul Warwick), Rhys Williams (William Harley), Frances Bavier (Helen Harley), Tita Phillips (Daisy), Isabel Jewell (Katy); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert L. Jacks; Alpha Video; 1953)
“There’s apparently no need or reason for this remake.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Hugo Fregonese (“Apache Drums”/”Blowing Wild”/”The Raid”) directs a simple-minded, crude and unexciting Jack the Ripper yarn that is much the lesser of the many previous versions including the following three all titled The Lodger–a silent one in 1926 by Alfred Hitchcock, Hitch’s first talkie in 1932, and, my favorite, the captivating 1944 feature starring Laird Cregar that was directed by John Brahm. There’s apparently no need or reason for this remake. It’sbased on the 1912 novel The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes and written by Barre Lyndon and Robert Presnell Jr.

In the midst of a Jack the Ripper killing spree of young women in the London of 1888, a creepy looking mysterious pathologist named Slade (Jack Palance), who couldn’t help looking suspicious, rents a room and an attic on the night of a grisly killing in the heart of London from the irritable landlord William Harley (Rhys Williams) and his lame-brained wife Helen (Frances Bavier). The couple are forced to rent to lodgers because they need the money due to recent business troubles. Soon their pretty actress niece, Lily Bonner (Constance Smith), resides in their residence while appearing in a Soho stage show as a cancan dancer and she becomes romantically interested in the lodger. Scotland Yard inspector Paul Warwick (Byron Palmer) also has a romantic interest in the showgirl, and will act in the end to save her from her poor instincts.

The film runs out of tension after a few fogbound alleyway murders of showgirls are carelessly constructed and it resorts to a climactic horse-drawn carriage chase over the cobble streets, in imitation of a western chase.

Palance, at the age of 34, gives a much more subdued performance than the more blustery ones he became known for later on in his successful career. The writers also give the Ripper a more blatant motive than in the other versions, saying he detests showgirls because his mother was a showgirl and she disgraced his father and dragged him down.