Portrait of Alison is a 1956 film based on Francis Durbridge's tv serial of the previous year. In the US, the film was known as Postmark for Danger. The story was written at a time when Durbridge was at the peak of his powers, and of his fame, and the plot includes a host of the devices that one associates with Durbridge - above all, the seemingly commonplace, yet at the same time inexplicable and bizarre item that seems to connect mysterious and murderous events. In this case, the item is a postcard of a bottle of Chianti, in the hand of a woman.
A car crashes in Italy with fatal consequences. An artist working in London, Tim Forrester (Robert Beatty) is told that his brother was at the wheel, and a young woman passenger was killed with him. The bodies are so badly burned as to be unrecognisable, and you don't need to be Paul Temple (who doesn't actually feature in this story) to suspect that all may not be as it seems.
The plot thickens rapidly as Tim is asked by the father of the dead girl, Alison Ford, to paint a portrait of her from a photograph. The photo vanishes, as does Alison's dress, which the father had given to Tim, while the portrait is defaced. Tim discovers all this when he comes home one day - to find the body of his regular model, who happens to be wearing Alison's dress. What can it all mean?
The route to the solution is as twisty as usual with Durbridge. Portrait of Alison is typical of his best work, with a gripping (if unlikely) plot and limited emphasis on characterisation and setting. The performances of the lead actors are rather wooden, I'm afraid, but there is ample compensation in the supporting cast, which is full of notable British character actors of the Fifties and Sixties - the likes of Geoffrey Keen, Raymond Francis, Sam Kydd, Terence Alexander (later renowned as Charlie Hungerford in Bergerac), William Lucas and Allan Cuthbertson (once ubiquitous on the TV screen, and now perhaps best remembered for an episode of Fawlty Towers). Good light entertainment.