Wednesday, 22 January 2020

The Man Who Haunted Himself - 1970 film review

The Man Who Haunted Himself is a psychological suspense thriller movie starring Roger Moore. That sentence is by itself perhaps enough to furrow brows. Roger Moore was a big star but he wasn't  renowned for his acting range. Yet this low-budget 1970 film was a favourite of his and apparently he accepted a fee far below his going rate to appear in it. The supporting cast is impressive, with plenty of familiar faces from that era.

The story begins with Moore as Harold Pelham, a respectable businessman, leaving his office and setting off in his car. The sight of Moore in a bowler hat is an odd one, but things become odder as he seems to become crazed and drives his car off the road. He's badly injured and at one time it seems he's died on the operating table, but he recovers, apparently none the worse for the experience. There's a sad irony about the car crash, by the way. This film was the last to be directed by Basil Dearden (whose earlier work included such excellent movies as Sapphire and The League of Gentlemen), who died shortly afterwards - in a car crash.

Pelham is reunited with his wife (Hildegarde Neil), who is devoted, but despondent about his lack of interest in her sexually. In the office, there are further problems, with fears of industrial espionage (as so often in the movies, the business world is conveyed quite unrealistically - the discussion about a planned merger is rather juvenile). Before long people claim to have seen Pelham in places and at times when he was elsewhere. A beautiful photographer called Julie claims to be his lover - could he really have forgotten sleeping with Olga Georges-Picot? (an actress who had a very sad personal life, according to Wikipedia). His wife is unsurprisingly suspicious.

It seems Pelham has a doppelganger. But what precisely has happened? Moore's acting skills are tested to the limit - beyond the limit, to be honest - as Pelham's terror increases. The story's an interesting one, though, and although the film was not a success, it's been more appreciated in recent years. Yes, there are flaws, but the idea of split personality appeals to the imagination and this is one of those stories where a remake could work well. The original story was written by Anthony Armstrong and he developed it into a novel in 1957, The Strange Case of Mr Pelham

1 comment:

Clothes in Books said...

I remember watching this on TV very many years ago - it was, and I can't think of a better word, quite haunting...