Saturday, 13 July 2013

Shock-Thriller Entertainment

‘Hysteria’ is one of Hammer’s psychological thriller films, and quite good it is too. It revolves around a man (visiting American star Robert Webber) who has lost his memory* after a car crash. After several weeks of recovery, and still not really knowing what happened, he is discharged from hospital and installed in a modernist penthouse apartment by a mystery benefactor. The apartment is great, all sculptures and plate glass and cockatoos in the hallway, but the rest of the apartment block is deserted and, at night, he can hear screaming. Is he going mad on his own, or is someone trying to help him? And who is the mysterious, beautiful, apparently dead woman whose picture was amongst his few personal effects? And who feeds the cockatoos, because he never does?
Stylish and occasionally quite dark in content, ‘Hysteria’ gets bogged down in implausibility long before the end but manages to slog on under the super-competent direction of Freddie Francis. Webber is okay (although apparently a pain to work with) and Leila Goldoni is very attractive, but the real star is dear old Maurice Denham, who plays a wily, slightly seedy private detective. The best moment in the film is when Webber tries to bully the older and much slighter Denham, who butts Webber in the gut, then effortlessly avoids his return blow before casually knocking the wind out of his sails with a swift punch to the solar plexus. It’s not much, but it feels like a triumph for the British underdog and that’s always nice to see, isn’t it? Well done, Maurice, well done.

* I wonder just how many books and films revolve around memory loss, and how that compares with actual cases? I suppose somebody might write in with the answer. I'd Goggle it myself, but my finger is tired from typing all this. 

No comments:

Post a Comment