Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Snorkel - film review

The Snorkel is a 1958 crime film that has stuck, very obstinately, in my mind since I first saw it as a young boy, together with my parents. I didn't know the terms "inverted mystery" or "locked room murder" in those days, but the story fits both descriptions, and it made a great impression on me. I kept hoping that it would resurface on television, but no luck. Happily, I have managed to find a Spanish DVD, which one can watch in English. I did wonder if it would live up to expectations. Were my positive memories of the film tinged with nostalgia? Well, possibly, but it remains extremely watchable, and I have no hesitation in recommending it.

The film begins with Paul Decker (played, excellently, by the menacing Peter Van Eyck - surely this was his finest role) carefully carrying out the murder of his wife. Cunningly, he stages it to look like a suicide. And everyone is fooled, except for his young step-daughter, Candy. She believes Paul killed her father, and has now killed her mother. She is spot on - but nobody believes her.

The suspense builds as Candy tries to discover how Paul carried out the crime. It's a cat and mouse story, very well handled. The original story was by Anthony Dawson, but I'm not sure if it was ever published. There has been some confusion about Dawson's identity, but it seems he was the same Anthony Dawson who was much better known as an actor, appearing in Dial M for Murder, and as an early incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Mandy Miller, a child star whose career did not last, plays Candy, and Betta St John plays the young woman Decker fancies. William Franklyn, a suavely reliable actor, has a modest role as the British consul. The screenplay is by the capable Jimmy Sangster, and the director is Guy Green.

For me, watching the film was not only a very enjoyable trip down memory lane but also a chance to enjoy again an under-rated suspense film. After watching, I checked it out on the internet, and found that it had not only been covered three years ago on the splendid Tipping My Fedora blog, but that I'd actually commented upon it at the time. I'd actually forgotten that, a sign of the amnesia that means I'd never make an efficient murderer. But at least I'm glad that I've never forgotten The Snorkel..


Anonymous said...

Never heard of it, let alone seen it, but I have to say "The Snorkel", as a film title is about as unappetizing and unlikely to arouse potential viewer interest as one could imagine. I was going to say the title was "uninformative" also, but apparently it's TOO informative. As is apparent from the poster, Hammer was blithely unconcerned about revealing the gimmick to the locked room mystery right up front. Bad form, surely.
Art Scott

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Art. It's an "inverted" story, in the Austin Freemna/Columbo tradition, so the audience is on the secret right from the outset. A good example of its kind, I think.