Terrific movie. Good DVD.
Chas Devlin | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/19/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Very surprised to see this come out on DVD. I'd seen this on TV in England about 15 years ago and loved it on first viewing. The basic premise concerns a series of grisly murders gripping the city of London. The crimes in question being committed by a man haunted by his deceased father, whose job was official hangman for Her Majesty. With the killer seemingly one step ahead of the police, it becomes a tense game of cat and mouse. I won't go into all the plot details except to say that of course, being 1946 and shot in glorious black and white, everything is implied. The murder scenes are fairly quick and the camera lingers just long enough to give the audience a sense of dread. Having said that, you have to wonder what people back then made of a movie about strangulations.To offset the gruesome tone, the movie is filled with some nice light humor to balance things out -- one running gag involves a detective's wife being a crime buff who thinks the murderer's name rings a bell. Every so often he'd chime in, ("My missus was saying the other day..."). Very droll!The writers took care to ensure the police are not seen as bumbling fools but as careful, methodical crime stoppers. Despite having their guy tailed and losing him on one occasion, they still manage to follow all leads with skill.The cast are wonderful. Eric Portman as the killer is really quite frightening. He plays a man with a double-life -- successful businessman by day, killer by night -- preying on young, unsuspecting girls. His fast-talking menace and evil glare make him quite memorable. Roland Culver does a superb job as the police chief. A year earlier, Culver appeared in the outstanding British horror, Dead of Night. As the killer's girlfriend, the very pretty Dulcie Gray is ideal for the part. She has no idea her controlling boyfriend is responsible for the terror gripping London! With her incredibly well spoken accent (the real Queen's English!) she makes her scenes thoroughly enjoyable.If one thing makes this movie stand out (in my mind at least), it it the music. The main theme (A Voice in the Night) plays an integral role and is used throughout the movie. The killer is haunted by the theme and insists his girlfriend play it for him -- she works at a gramaphone shop in the City (no megastore's here!). At one point, the killer also makes one of his victims sing it before taking her life (the only time it's heard with lyrics). Amazingly, the theme is (or was) available on CD on a compilation of British movies from the 30's and 40's. The DVD itself is fairly no-frills. There's a very cool trailer -- lots of big, in your face words across the screen (TERROR GRIPS THE CITY!!) complete with over-the-top voice over. It's a great addition. Some photo stills (appear to be screen shots of the movie) are included but feel like they were added to pad things out.For some reason, the first reel had terrible picture and sound quality. The blacks and whites looked saturated, as if the threshold was way off (resembling a bad photocopy). And major hissing drowned things out. But after that, everything was fine. Considering the source, this is a pretty good job and for any fan of the movie, a worthy purchase."
Dark red suits you.
Steven Hellerstedt | 06/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What happens when a serial murderer falls in love with one of his intended victims? Can love drive you sane? That's one of the questions asked by WANTED FOR MURDER, an excellent British crime-thriller from 1946.
The movie begins with a love triangle. Pretty young Anne Fielding (Dulcie Gray) works in a gramophone shop. She has been squired by the cultured, debonair and successful Victor Colebrooke (Eric Portman) for some time when she meets bus conductor Jack Williams (Derek Farr), a man of little means but with dreams of becoming an engineer. Anne and Jack meet on a stalled subway. He shyly tells her that he remembers her from the bus he conducted and she rode to work every morning. Jack escorts her to a fairground, where she's to meet Colebrooke. The stalled subway made her an hour late, Colebrooke is nowhere to be seen, and Jack and Anne begin to strike some sparks. Leaving her on a merry-go-round to buy some ice cream, Anne sees Colebrooke and rushes after him, more or less abandoning the baffled Jack. The next morning the papers announce another killing, this one at the fairground, by a serial murderer the papers call `The Strangler.'
Ten minutes into WANTED FOR MURDER the movie tells you who the murderer is. Twenty minutes into it you realize Scotland Yard is not going to be played for a fool. The meat in this one isn't the mystery of who-done-it or even frustration over inept police work. This is a character study of a murderer that derives its strength from a brilliant script, a pitch perfect performance by Eric Portman, a haunting score, and a rich use of the entire cast. There's a scene in the movie. One of the leads is buying a humble plate of fish in a cafeteria. He sets his plate of fish down next to what looks like a working class man who's just finished his meal. A policeman rushes in, tells the lead character that Anne may be in grave danger, and the lead character and the policeman rush out. Cut and sweep to the next scene, right? Wrong. Director Lawrence Huntington leaves the camera trained on the table, where the working class man pushes back his empty plate, grins, and pulls the abandoned plate of fish towards him. Whether they're flicking cigarette ashes into the sugar or appropriating abandoned meals, the minor characters are all given little bits of business, and the movie has a depth, richness and roundness for it.
For a movie that reveals many of its secrets early on I found this one absolutely riveting. Highest recommendation.
A Serial Strangler, With Excellent Performances By Eric Port
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 11/12/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Victor Colebrooke (Eric Portman) has a serious problem. He's a successful, well-mannered London businessman in 1946 who is compelled to strangle young women with his bare hands. He has murdered six so far. The police, led by Chief Inspector Conway (Roland Culver), have been stymied, but little by little Colebrooke's psychopathic need to demonstrate his superiority and Conway's meticulous persistence are bringing them closer together.
Colebrooke, it turns out, is the son of the late William Colebrooke, the public hangmen in late Victorian times. He hanged 45 men and women, and seemed never happier than when he was tightening the noose around their necks and pulling the lever. Victor can't remember his father, but he is obsessed by what his father did. He lives in a fine house with his mother, who tries to protect him, but he cannot stop his compulsions. "Set me free...set me free..." he cries to himself. He is friends with Anne Fielding (Dulcie Gray), a shop girl who works in a record store. He comes to believe that she, by marrying him, can save him. Anne, however, has met a young service veteran, they've fallen in love, and she tells Victor she must stop seeing him. Enraged and unbalanced, Victor now chooses Anne as his next victim.
Wanted for Murder is a solidly constructed, moody study of a psychopath, directed with craftsmanship by Lawrence Huntington and with a screenplay co-written by Emeric Pressburger, one half of The Archers. The photography is excellent, from deep shadows obscuring all of Portman's face except his eyes to sunny but tense scenes in London's streets and parks. The film also is an example of a type of British movie typical of the Thirties, Forties and well into the Fifties, where the lead players often were the epitome of the English gentleman and well-mannered English woman, where any actor aiming for lead roles needed to master that cultured English accent that transformed "here" into "heah" and "girls" into "gels."
With that said, the movie remains a carefully crafted, tense and sometimes amusing film. Some scenes I particularly liked: 1) The evening fairground at Hampstead Heath, crowded with people enjoying rides and puppet plays, and where Colebrooke, seen only from the back, spots the laughing young woman he soon will strangle to death; 2) The quick, funny discussion concerning the merits of rice blancmange; 3) The scenes involving immaculate sparring between Inspector Conway and Colebrooke. Roland Culver and Eric Portman were the type of actor who exuded assured self-confidence as easily as other actors breathed. It was good fun seeing these two spar; 4) Victor's violent smashing of the statue of his father at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. We only see his back until it's over, then he swiftly turns, the camera cuts away, and for only an instant there is a glimpse of Portman's face, slack jawed with his mouth open...an unsettling image of a mad man; 5) At Regent's Park at night, when Colebrooke has strangled his latest victim and suddenly a young serviceman and his girl appear. The serviceman walks up to Colebrooke to ask for a light. Colebrooke is sitting with his back to man, looking like he's holding his arm around his own girl, except if you look closely you can see her dead hand motionless on the ground.
The movie has a lot to offer. It's not a forgotten classic, but it's an example of so many of those well-made movies of the past which have been forgotten. If you like older movies, a taut story, and assured acting by two skilled players, Culver and Portman, you might enjoy this film. The black and white DVD transfer looks very good. There are no extras to speak of.
As a note: If you enjoy the mannered, amusing pretensions of the English upper-class, you should watch Roland Culver, Clive Brook, Beatrice Lillie and Googie Withers in On Approval."