Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Oliver Reed, Alexander Davion and Sheila Burrell
PARANOIAC (1963). Director: Freddie Francis.

"Money doesn't matter as long as we have each other." -- Francoise

"You're more stupid than I gave you credit for." -- Simon

A wealthy couple, the Ashbys, were killed in a plane crash eleven years ago. Three years later, one of their children, Tony, committed suicide at 15. Now eight years have gone by since then and the survivors include emotionally disturbed Eleanor (Janette Scott), who hears her dead brother singing in the night; her brother Simon (Oliver Reed), who drinks copiously and is primarily concerned with the inheritance that will come his way in a couple of weeks; and their strange and stern Aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell) whose face is an inscrutable mask. Another member of the household is Francoise (Liliane Brousse of Maniac), who is Eleanor's nurse.  Out of nowhere there's suddenly a new/old arrival, a handsome man (Alexander Davion) who claims that he's Tony and that he only faked his death by drowning years ago [the body was never recovered]. Is this man for real, or is he an impostor after the family fortune? And who is that masked figure who goes about attacking people with a meat hook? Paranoiac is another post-Psycho British thriller with an unusual plot and absorbing script by Jimmy Sangster that, unfortunately, offers up some rather absurd developments as things proceed. [One amusing aspect is how more than one person notes how the adult Tony refuses a drink and remembers that "yes, Tony never drank." At 15 one would hope so!] There is one excellent sequence in which Eleanor nearly goes over a cliff in her car when the brakes fail, and in general Francis' direction is quite good. Paranoiac boasts good performances from the entire cast, although Reed does go a little over the top in a couple of sequences. Alexander Davion makes an extremely appealing leading man. The film also has an effective score by Elisabeth Lutyens [The Psychopath] and attractive photography by Arthur Grant [The Terror of the Tongs].

Verdict: Silly at times but entertaining. **1/2.

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