Monday, March 10, 2008
TWISTED NERVE (1968). Director: Roy Boulting.
Hywel Bennett plays Martin Durnley, a young man of normal intelligence, who has a mongoloid brother. He pretends to be the simple-minded "Georgie" and it is under this identity that he enters the household of Susan Harper (Hayley Mills) and her mother Joan (Billie Whitelaw), who rents rooms to boarders (one of whom is played with zest by Barry Foster, the killer in Hitchcock's Frenzy; Whitelaw also appeared in that film). The first half of this film is excellent and suspenseful, as we wonder what Martin is up to and watch him interact with the other residents, all of whom think he's an amiable simpleton. Once we find out what's what, however, the movie becomes a fairly routine thriller which cries out for the tense and exciting treatment of a Hitchcock. Boulting, alas, is no Hitchcock, and scenes that should have been riveting are only tiresome. Worse, the murder sequences have no elan whatsoever. The shame of it is that the plot is entirely workable, and the acting is first-rate; Bennett gives an outstanding performance, in fact. Bernard Herrmann's score -- what little there is of it -- doesn't do much to help, unfrotunately. Because the film allegedly linked mongolism with homicidal tendencies -- not outright, but with rather shabby inferences -- it was quite controversial in its day, and has been little seen since its release forty years ago.
Verdict: A crying shame -- this could have been a contender. **.