With a pat cast, keen direction and tight scripting, 20th-Fox has an absorbing and, at times, spine-tingling drama concocted from Marie Belloc Lowndes’ novel The Lodger. It’s a super chiller-diller in its picturization of a Scotland Yard manhunt for London’s Jack the Ripper.
Director John Brahm and scripter Barre Lyndon make it as much a psychological study of the halfcrazed ‘Lodger’ (Laird Cregar), as if in a deftly-paced horrific whodunit in trying to outline some explanation for the repeated throatslashings of London stage women, neither has even slightly deviated from the swift weaving of events. Aside from preliminary steps, sequence of events mounts in rapid succession with suspense injected time after time with telling effect.
It is Laird Cregar’s picture. As ‘The Ripper’ he gives an impressive performance. It is a relentless, at times pathetic character as he pursues his self-appointed task of avenging his brother. His precise diction and almost studied poise make his characterization all the more impressive.
Merle Oberon is highly effective as Kitty, the dancer, of respectable family whose stardom is nearly abruptly ended. Stage sequences show her a graceful dancer in abbreviated skirt and provide the bright contrast to somber and melodramatic passages. Kept more or less in the background initially, her scene in the dressing room, when she pleads for her life, is the high dramatic spot of the production. George Sanders, cast as a sleuth, is strong.