Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Blind Date - 1959 film review

Blind Date (no, nothing to do with Cilla Black's TV show) is a film that was re-named Chance Encounter in the US. I'm not sure that either title is quite right, but Blind Date was the name Leigh Howard gave to the source novel, published in 1955. Four years later, Joseph Losey, a capable director, made the film.It's a murder mystery, but it also seems to aim to be something more.

The film begins rather oddly, with Hardy Kruger walking along a London street, clearly happy, and accompanied by a jaunty tune (the work of the young Richard Rodney Bennett, no less). He lets himself into a well-appointed flat, but whoever he hopes to meet isn't there. He finds some money in an envelope bearing his name, but then the police turn up. Gordon Jackson plays a stolid sergeant, soon pushed to one side by a Welsh inspector played by Stanley Baker and another inspector, this time a posh fellow whom the Welshman clearly doesn't care for.

Unfortunately for Kruger's character, the body of a woman is then found in the flat. He is reluctant to explain himself, but eventually his story comes out in a series of flashbacks. He's a struggling Dutch painter who was seduced by a French woman who is older, richer, and married. (She's played by Micheline Presle, a legend of French cinema, who is still going strong at the age of 84). He protests his innocence, but he is an obvious suspect.

There's quite a nice plot twist, but I felt the mystery element of the story was a bit thin. And gifted though Bennett was, I didn't feel that his score improved the film or even captured its mood. Losey devotes quite a lot of time to issues of the class divide in Britain, and this is interesting, though again laboured. There is, however, rich compensation in the presence of Baker, one of the most charismatic actors of his time. He died at the age of 48, weeks after it was announced he was to receive a knighthood in Harold Wilson's resignation honours list. Wilson was a friend of Baker's, but for me Baker deserved to be honoured. I'm not sure I've ever seen him give an indifferent performance, and at his best he was brilliant. Here, he makes an okay film something a little better than just okay.

1 comment:

Graham Powell said...

I've liked Baker in everything I've seen him in. And wow, I'm 48.