Author of many thrillers, Eric Ambler makes his debut as producer of his own script, and a fine beginning it is, with John Mills in top form and a grand all-round cast. Unlike the usual Ambler story, this is not a whodunit or spy story. It’s a study of the conflict in the mind of a mentally sick man, not absolutely certain that he hasn’t committed murder.
John Mills plays Jim Ackland, an industrial chemist who suffers from a brain injury following an accident in which the child of a friend is killed. He blames himself for the child’s death, and develops suicidal tendencies. Released from hospital, he is warned of a possible relapse unless he takes things easy. He returns to work and lives in a suburban hotel inhabited by a small cross-section of the community – retired business men, fussy old women, young people struggling for a job – some well meaning and some viciously stupid.
Molly (Kay Walsh), a fashion model, is being ruthlessly pursued by Peachey (Edward Chapman) a retired wolf. In a tight corner she borrows a check from Jim, who has only met her once. The following day Molly is found murdered and Jim is suspected.
This bare outline, which omits the somewhat superimposed love affair between Jim and Jenny Carden (Joan Greenwood), can’t do justice to the development and treatment of the yarn, nor to the unusual angles. The dialog is taut and adult, and the direction by Roy [Ward] Baker, onetime assistant to Hitchcock, is imaginative. Only defect is the tempo. For a suspense pic it sometimes lacks pace.