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

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

THE PSYCHOPATH


THE PSYCHOPATH (1966). Director: Freddie Francis.

Despite its title and the fact that it was written by Robert Bloch (who wrote the novel Hitchcock's Psycho was based upon), The Psychopath is not quite a psycho-shocker with an emphasis on gruesome deaths (although there are some of those, of course, but they're not too graphic). Rather it's a comparatively tasteful mystery about a series of murders of men who may have wrongly accused a German man of being a war criminal. The man's widow, Mrs. Von Sturm (Margaret Johnston) and son Mark (John Standing) are suspects, but there are other possibilities as well. The killer leaves dolls that resemble the victims at the scene of each murder. The mystery deepens when people who have no connection to the Von Sturm's start being targeted. Absorbing, well-acted thriller (Johnston is particularly good if slightly hammy at times) is no Psycho but it has its moments (including some awkward, stilted ones). There's a good climactic fight in a shipyard (with classical music in the background) and an effective credit sequence with evocative music by Elisabeth Lutyens. Patrick Wymark is the inspector on the case; he's bland but more than competent. The epilogue when the killer is finally revealed is nicely chilling and disturbing.
Verdict: Suspenseful stuff in a minor key. ***.

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