WANTED FOR MURDER
(director/writer: Lawrence Huntington; screenwriter: from the play by Percy Robinson & Terence de Marney/Rodney Ackland/Maurice Cowan/Emeric Pressburger; cinematographer: Mutz Greenbaum; editor: Edward B. Jarvis; music: Mischa Spoliansky; cast: Eric Portman (Victor Colebrooke), Dulcie Gray (Anne Fielding), Derek Farr (Jack Williams), Roland Culver (Inspector Conway), Stanley Holloway (Sgt. Sullivan), Barbara Everest (Mrs. Colebrooke), Kathleen Harrison (Florrie), Jenny Laird (Jeannie McLaren), Bonar Colleano (Cpl. Nick Mappolo), Edna Wood (Miss Kemp), Bill Shine (Det. Ellis), John Salew (Det. Walters), Moira Lister (Miss Willis), John Ruddock (Tramp), George Carney (Boatman), Viola Lyel (Mrs. Mabel Cooper); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Marcel Hellman; 20th Century Fox; 1946)
“An appealing crime thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Emeric Pressburger is the gifted screenwriter who adapts the play by Percy Robinson and Terence de Marney for this critically acclaimed film noir British programmer that somehow fell through the cracks and has been seldom seen. This new DVD is a digital transfer from an archival 35mm negative with excellent picture quality.
London at a time just after the war is terrorized by a number of strangulations of women, as a serial-killer is on the loose. We learn early on that the killer is Victor Colebrooke (Eric Portman), a well-educated and debonair businessman of 35 who is a mama’s boy still living at home. The killer’s father was the public hangman, who took delight in his job. He’s honored by appearing in Madame Trussaud’s Chamber of Horrors, where he’s known as the “Happy Hangman.” Victor is obsessed that he inherited his father’s madness and urge to kill, though dad did it legally. When Victor’s date at a Hampstead Heath amusement park fails to show in time because of an Underground delay, he goes into a slow rage and while waiting around strangles to death his sixth victim. While stuck in the train Anne Fielding (Dulcie Gray) meets off-duty bus conductor Jack Williams (Derek Farr), who had a crush on her when she used to ride his route but never chatted with her before. Jack walks with Anne to the park, and when Victor is not there they remain together and go on a merry-go-round ride. When Jack goes for ice cream, Anne spots Victor and rushes over to see him. Victor throws a hissy fit and Anne leaves with him without telling Jack. All Jack knows about her is that she works as a salesgirl in a music store.
Scotland Yard, under Chief Investigator Conway (Roland Culver), learns of the latest victim found at night in Hampstead Heath. The police try to track down everyone who was at the Heath during the time of the murder for a possible eyewitness report, and this results in bringing in Jack for questioning because he was reported by the train crew as leaving with a girl but returning alone. Inspector Conway also goes to Victor’s house for questioning because a tramp found his handkerchief in the vicinity of the crime scene.
The killer starts sending taunting postcards and claims he will strike again tonight. The police with no solid clues get a lucky break and find out who is the killer. But they don’t have enough proof to arrest Victor, so they put a tail on him. The detective (Shine) loses him in the Hyde Park crowd, where Victor is meeting Anne. She’s the only girl who can save him, but has rejected his marriage proposal and now faces certain death unless someone can come to the rescue.
Wanted for Murder is an appealing crime thriller that has no pretenses, the dialogue is crisp, the pacing just right and the story taut. My favorite line is when Detective Sullivan (Stanley Holloway), the inspector’s assistant, says “My wife’s psychic.” The inspector replies “I’m sure there’s something the matter with her.”
REVIEWED ON 9/10/2004 GRADE: B