Wednesday, 15 February 2023

The Third Secret - 1964 film review

The Third Secret is an ambitious film that falls short of excellence but is nevertheless interesting. The basic plot material is quite straightforward; a famous psychiatrist dies, apparently having shot himself, but his daughter believes he was murdered. She persuades one of his patients (Alex Stedman, played by Stephen Boyd) to investigate. And it seems that it is one of the dead man's patients who was responsible for his death.

So far, so conventional. What took me by surprise was the way that Robert L. Joseph, who wrote and directed the film, opted for a storytelling approach that was wordy and at times pretentious. I think he could have achieved the effects he was aiming for in a more economical, less verbose way. That said, the script is unusual enough to keep the viewer interested, if at times irritated.

A real strength of the film is the cast. Whilst I don't think Boyd's performance is exceptional, Pamela Franklin is impressive as the dead man's daughter. The patients who come under suspicious include characters played by such notable actors as Richard Attenborough, Diane Cilento, and Jack Hawkins. The supporting cast, featuring Rachel Kempson, Peter Sallis, Peter Copley, Charles Lloyd Pack and even the young Judi Dench (in her first film role) is equally impressive.

If Joseph had edited his script more ruthlessly, and perhaps chosen another actor instead of Boyd role, this film could have been outstanding. It isn't, alas, but it's certainly worth watching. Joseph was aiming for a rounded psychological drama, I think, and this may account for his lack of concern about pace. But he did manage to produce an intriguing study of mental breakdown. 

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