Artfully composed and strikingly photographed, this British-manufactured reproduction of Metro’s 1937 shock-suspense thriller lacks the restraint, clarity and subtlety of its forerunner but makes up, to some degree, in cinematic flamboyance what it lacks in dramatic tidiness and conviction.
Albert Finney’s performance as the cunning madman is vivid and explosive, and it might not be too far from wrong to suppose that the entire project may have germinated out of his desire to tackle the character.
Vagueness in key dramatic junctures hampers the new version, constructed around the skeleton of Emlyn Williams’ stage play.
That story lapses and irregularities seem less than drastic is a tribute to the dazzling execution and a batch of tangy performances. Finney, in the role first played so well by Robert Montgomery, is fascinating to watch as his dispositions shift with maniacal rootlessness. It’s an inventive, stimulating portrayal by a gifted actor. Yet Finney’s thespic thunder is often stolen by Mona Washbourne’s masterful delineation of the lonely ‘invalid’ who becomes his victim.