Wednesday 14 February 2018

Dilemma - 1962 film review

Dilemma is a good title for the 1962 British black and white B movie which has, over the years, provoked widely differing responses. To some, it is "critically acclaimed", an unusual and possibly thought-provoking suspense story. To others, it's a complete disaster. At the risk of sitting on the fence, I can see both points of view. I found it watchable, despite an irritatingly intrusive soundtrack, but ultimately frustrating.

The set-up is definitely intriguing. In respectable suburbia, a youngish woman (Ingrid Hafner) screams and flees from her semi-detached house. Her nosey next door neighbour wonders what is going on. She isn't enlightened when Harry (Peter Halliday) turns up. He's a teacher, who has just broken up for the holidays. Tomorrow, he and his wife Jean are off on hols to celebrate their second wedding anniversary. He's surprised that Jean (Hafner) is nowhere to be seen.

Surprise turns to horror when he goes upstairs, and discovers a strange man's body in the bathroom. Just before he dies, the man utters an enigmatic "dying message". The deceased has been stabbed with a pair of scissors, and Jean's apron is stained with blood. What on earth is going on? Harry concludes that, for reasons he can't guess, Jean has murdered the man. So he sets about hiding the body under the floorboards of the living room.

The suspense builds as all manner of visitors, including the police, turn up to torment him. Will he get away with concealing evidence of murder? And what is his wife up to? The trouble is that his behaviour seems wildly implausible. How could it possibly be a good idea for someone with any intelligence to behave as he does? That's one of the three problems with the film. Another is that Hafner's acting is wooden in the extreme. She doesn't seem to believe in her character, though perhaps that's not surprising. The final problem is the finale, which is unsatisfactory - because inadequately foreshadowed and very difficult to believe - and oddly truncated. Apparently the film wasn't released in the cinema, though it was shown on television. It's an odd one, but it kept me watching even if I did feel slightly cheated at the end.

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