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Since the death of their parents, Eleanor (Janette Scott) and Simon
(Oliver Red) Ashby, heirs to a vast fortune, have been brought up by their
aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell), and they do pretty much what all young
heirs seem to do: Simon tries to drink away his money and upset everybody
only remotely associated with him, while Eleanor slowly fades away into
insanity, with her nurse Francoise (Liliane Brousse) being more a sex
kitten for Simon than a help for her. And Simon actually plans to drive
her insane to get his hands on her share of the inheritance as well ...
but his plans it seems haven't gotten very far.
Then one day, Tony (Alexander Davion), Simon's and Eleanor's long lost
thought to be dead brother turns up, actually saving Eleanor from a
suicide. Eleanor's mood quickly brightens up, since she has always loved
her brother Tony, but both Simon and aunt Harriet deeply distrust Tony,
thinking him to be an impostor only after the money.
And while Tony seems to be honest to the bone and holier than thou, and
he really seems to care about Eleanor, he really is an impostor, one who
Keith (John Bonney), son of the Ashby's family attorney (Maurice Denham)
has hired to help him cover up the crooked dealings he has made with the
family fortune ...
Back home, Simon, fearing for his inheritance, even makes an attempt at
Tony's life, that almost also involves Eleanor, but fails.
Then Tony starts to do a bit of snooping around on his own, and
discovers that Simon is in fact quite mad and he and aunt Harriet are
covering up a terrible family secret: That Simon has killed his brother
Tony (the real one) many years ago and with Aunty's help has walled him up
in the family chapel - where he goes every now and again to play his
brother a few tunes on the organ. When Tony (the impostor) also discovers
the corpse of Tony (the real one) in the chapel, he gets into a fight with
Simon, and, as these stories go, ultimately the chapel catches fire. Tony
can escape, withthe help of Eleanor, but Simon, in a desperate attempt to
save the dead body of his brother, dies in the flames.
I have to admit it, on closer inspection the plotline of Paranoiac
is rather weak, at the same time over-convoluted and it has a quite some
plotholes. Yet the film, one of Hammer's psycho thrillers in
contemporary settings rather than their more usual gothic horror, is quite
good at what it is, solid and entertaining thrillerfare. This is of course
thanks to an atmospheric direction job by Freddie Francis - who might
never have been a top director but was always great at genre fare -, a
well-paced (if not too well-written) script, and great
performances from all of the involved, with Oliver Reed outshining the
restin a rather restrained yet chilling performance.
Watch it, if you don't think about the story too much you'll like it.