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Jim Ackland, who suffers from a head injury sustained in a bus crash, is the chief suspect in a murder hunt, when a girl that he has just met is found dead on the local common, and he has no alibi for the time she was killed. Written by
Mike Wilson <Mike.Wilson6@btinternet.com>
The October man is directed by Roy Ward Baker and written by Eric Ambler. It stars John Mills, Joan Greenwood, Edward Chapman, Kay Walsh, Joyce Carey, Catherine Lacey, Adrianne Allen and Felix Aylmer. Music is by William Alwyn and cinematography by Erwin Hillier.
Following a bus crash that killed a friends child that he was treating to a day out, Jim Ackland (Mills) suffers a brain injury. During his recuperation it's revealed to him that he is prone to amnesia, and even though he's suicidal over the child's death, he's released back into society. Setting up lodgings at a hotel and back to work as an industrial chemist, Jim is functioning well. That is until he financially helps one of the young lady residents of the hotel and becomes the chief suspect when she winds up murdered in a park. Jim has no recollection of committing the crime, but he was in the park
Pulsing with moody atmospherics, this Brit noir psychological - thriller showcases the best of John Mills and the higher end of the British noir splinter. It's a post war London that's cloaked in shadowy streets, of parks harbouring spectral mists punctured by bulbous lamps, a train station a foreboding but visually stunning presence. Jim Ackland is suicidal and nursing amnesia, yet the hotel where he lives, itself a relic of a London that time forgot, is full of human beings from different ends of the evolutionary scale. It's not a good place for Jim to be, a cuckoos nest of spiteful, suspicious, vengeful, lonely people, Jim in fact, in spite of his problems, appears to be the only sane one there!
There is no great "whodunit" to be solved here, some critics have bizarrely complained that the murderer is too obvious! Bizarre because the makers don't try and hide who it is, the film is firmly interested in the human condition, in how members of society react post a heinous crime, and of course how the afflicted antagonist fights his corner when confronted by hostility and his own mental confusion. Roy Ward Baker, for what was his first direction assignment, is more than up for the job of crafting a noir thriller. He has a good eye for the visual traits that often marry up with human feelings or behaviour, of course having someone of Hillier's class on cinematography duty naturally helps him through his debut production.
Splendid entertainment. 8/10
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