Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Torment (aka The Paper Gallows) - 1950 film review

A film about two crime writers - what could be better? Well,what if one of them were heroic and handsome? Yes, that's better. And what if the other were deranged and homicidally inclined? Perfect! These are the key ingredients that meant I found the chance to watch Torment irresistible. I absolutely deny that the screenplay based on real life incidents in the crime writing world!

Torment was known in the US as The Paper Gallows (a title explained near the end of the story, and a rather good title, too, which deserves a fresh life). The director was John Guillerman, whose best known work in the crime film genre was the lavish production of Christie's Death on the Nile in the late 70s. He also came up with the script. It's a young man's work, and not short of energy if rather lacking in sophistication..

The two Brandon brothers are Jim, a very successful writer, who shares his posh house with his brother Cliff. The pair are played by Dermot Walsh (whom I recall from my youth as the star of Richard the Lionheart  a series that I watched avidly when I was a child) and John Bentley, who was best known for starring in Crossroads, a TV show which in contrast I made sure I avoided.. Cliff, poor fellow, dreams of writing the ultimate crime novel. Any temptation I had to identify with him was killed off early on, even before he did away with the family cat, horrid fellow.

The Brandons have a pretty young secretary called Joan. She fancies Jim, but Cliff fancies her. It's a recipe for calamity, and calamity duly follows. This is a short, snappy film, quite engaging if not, I'd like to think, entirely authentic in its portrayal of a crime novelist battling his demons. .

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