When a young girl is found dead an inspector is sent to investigate a prosperous Yorkshire household. It emerges that each member of the family has a guilty secret - each one is partly responsible for her death.
An American businessman visits London and is horrified to discover his nubile teenage daughter has become involved with a gang of thuggish "beatniks". Her involvement leads to wild parties, sex, death and necrophilia.
"The Ringer" (1952) is a Britnoir. Critic John Grant discusses it in his "noirish" blog. He typically reveals quite a lot of the plot.
The cast is very capable. I always appreciate the beautiful Greta Gynt. She's a sophisticated lady here, decked out nicely. She plays the wife of the ringer, a master of disguise. He's so masterful that we must implausibly believe that Greta cannot recognize him. I didn't buy it. Greta begins the movie with a kind of "Third Man" voice over with matching photography. Her voice is very easy to take.
The movie itself is very talky, and this has a tendency to wear down the viewer. It's also fairly easy from the script to guess who the ringer is. Much of the play occurs in the upscale dwelling of Herbert Lom, as he is the intended victim of the ringer. The movie is smoothly and professionally done, the main attraction being the cast; but the story as told here doesn't really click or crackle with tension. There is virtually non-stop talking and lots of it. This is part of what in movies I elsewhere have called "the British disease", inherited perhaps from the Shakespeare tradition. It is a failure to use the language and possibilities of cinema and to transfer the stage play to the screen.
William Hartnell will please his fans as an upbeat thief. His woman, Dora Bryan, specialized in brassy Cockney parts. Here she has a good line or two, something like: "I can't leave him. We're not married." Herbert Lom is again in top form as a slippery lawyer. A youngish Denholm Elliott has rather a disconnected subplot involving his love, Mai Zetterling, Lom's secretary who is an illegal whom Lom keeps trying to rope into his bed. Donald Wolfit fans will find that he has rather a large part as a doctor who assists the inspector, Charles Victor.
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