Mindful, perhaps, of the way a straightforward approach exposed the limitations of Emlyn Williams' play in 1937, this adaptation by Clive Exton and Reisz not only adds a good deal of flummery psychological detail, but abandons the narrative approach in favour of a choppy, static style, with jagged direct cuts between scenes and the emphasis often on close-ups of heads awkwardly (symbolically ?) poised at the edge of the screen. The idea, it seems, is to evoke the aura of the psychopath rather than the narrative excitements of his story. But with old-fashioned cross-cutting coming back with a vengeance to provide some suspense for the climax, nothing really hangs together. Finney brings off a few memorable moments (notably a hypnotically horrible little ritual with the hatbox), but the one unqualified success of the film is Freddie Francis' dreamy yet diamond-sharp camerawork.
Cast and crew