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Murder by Proxy

Blackout

UK 1954
produced by
Michael Carreras for Hammer/Exclusive, Lippert Pictures
directed by Terence Fisher
starring Dane Clark, Belinda Lee, Betty Ann Davies, Eleanor Summerfield, Andrew Osborn, Harold Land, Jill Melford, Alvys Maben, Michael Golden, Alfie Bass
screenplay by Richard H.Landau, based on a novel by Helen Nielsen, music by Ivor Stanley

Hammer noir

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Down-on-his-luck Casey Morrow (Dane Clark) is drunk like a punk when a beautiful blonde, Phyllis (Belinda Lee) offers him not only company but also 500 Pounds for a job. Halfway out anyways, Casey agrees without knowing what the job actually is, but before he really passes out, he hears her saying something about marrying her ...

The next day he wakes up in a strange appartment, that of painter Maggie (Eleanor Summerfield), and has to learn that his wife is the heiress of a vast fortune and her father was murdered just last night, the night he remembers nothing about, but he finds bloodstains on his coat ...

Later he learns that he has really married Phyllis and has been at the scene of the crime. Of course he didn't murder Phyllis' father, but he left enough fingerprints at the place to make everyone believe he did - and since he is now apparently married to Phyllis, he even has a motive.

But Phyllis hasn't married him to simply pin the murder on him, she actually just wants to force him to investigate.

So Casey has to start investigating, and before long he stumbles upon a private eye who has disappeared, some phoney charity organisations Phyllis' mother (Betty Ann Davies) has apparently invested in, and lawyer Lance Gordon (Andrew Osborn), the consellor of Phyllis family who is also engaged to Phyllis - against her will - and who is apparently behind everything - and Gordon has grown wise to the fact that Casey is on his trail and tries to get rid of him. Suddenly Casey and Phyllis find themselves on the run, not only from the police, who might still think Casey is the murderer, but also from Gordon ...

Ultimately though, Phyllis leaves Casey, and when Casey looks for her at her mother's house, he is in for a shock when he finds her with her mother and Gordon, accusing him of kidnapping. Obviously he was set up by her from day one. But because he has at least one believable witness who can falsify the kidnapping accustion - none other than police inspector Johnson (Michael Golden), who is working on the case -, Casey can keep Phyllis and company from blowing the whistle on him.

However, when they are alone, Phyllis mother warns him that Lance will be attempting to shoot him and gives him a loaded gun. And indeed, the very same evening, Lance shows up at Casey's place and tries to shoot him - only to realize there are no bullets in his gun. Casey immediately realizes that his is some kind of set-up and doesn't shoot Lance either but merely throws his gun at him to knock him out ... bad move actually, because someone picks up the gun with his fingerprints on it and shoots Lance.

Casey is sure that it was Phyllis so he goes to her place to confront her, getting himself into such a rage in the process that he knocks her out ... then her mother appears, with the gun Lance was shot with, and wants to force Casey at gunpoint to shoot Phyllis - which is when inspector Johnson, who has long been trailing Casey and has never really been suspecting him, rushes in and arrests ... Phyllis' mother, who has obviously been ripping off her husband by making donation to various fake charity organisations, with the help of Lance and now that the whole thing was on the verge of blowing, she needed a scapegoat - Casey - to pin all the necessary murders on.

... and suddenly, Casey and Phyllis, who have long become lovers anyway, are in the clear ...

 

Ok, so there are several plot elements in this film that just don't make sense, many questions remain unanswered, and the whole happy ending seems a bit far-fetched - and despite all this, the film, a British film noir in the tradition of The Big Sleep, is simply brilliant, a suspenseful, fast-paced, well-played and - despite above-mentioned short-comings - well written genre pic if there ever was one. It might be Hammer's best film noir, and it might even be Terence Fisher's best film - despite its relative obscurity compared to classics like The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula, which he directed only a few years later.

Highest recommendation.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD