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I was first introduced to this film in a British Cinema class I took at the College of Santa Fe and it's haunted me ever since! Despite what the box claims, Orson Wells has a small part in the and of the film... but the real star is Alan Badel. The first segment, "In the Picture," deals with a museum attendant who's paintings have a real, and sinister, life of their own. The second segment, "You Killed Elizabeth," is not supernatural, and probably the film's dullest installment, but has some good character to it. The final segment, which shows Badel at his absolute evilest, "Lord Mountdrago," has Wells and Badel as political adversaries, and Wells' murderous dreams become real. Of all the small obscure murder mystery / horror gems to go unnoticed from Britain this is certainly the one I wish would receive more attention. It is chilling (my favorite segment remains "In the Picture"), well acted, and brilliantly scripted. Rent it if you find it at your video store! Watch it if it (miraculously) appears on television! Or simply go out and buy it (you won't regret it!). If you want to see the BEST horror anthology film ever, look no further than THREE CASES OF MURDER.
Eamonn Andrews is the link man for two tales of supernatural suspense
and one murder mystery.
In the first segment, titled In The Picture, an art gallery guide is lured into a macabre house painting by the artist and finds himself at the mercy of the residents who dwell there. In the second segment, titled You Killed Elizabeth, two friends fall in love with the same woman and when she is murdered it's obvious one of them did it. But which one? The final segment, titled Lord Mountdrago, The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs ruins the career of an opponent in Parliament and finds the man appearing in his dreams enacting retribution.
As is always the case with anthologies, the quality of stories is mixed, with here the middle section being the one that is pretty standard fare. No such problem with the other two stories though.
The first one is very creepy, even bordering on the terrifying as the tale reaches its conclusion. Once the story reaches the insides of the house in the painting, we are treated to a trio of odd characters living in a house that instantly conjures up images of horror. Ramshackle and creaky, director Wendy Toye further enhances the discord by using canted angles and personalised framing. An excellent story. Starring Hugh Pryse, Alan Badel and Eddie Byrne.
The third tale is considerably boosted by Orson Welles giving bluster to the story written by W. Somerset Maugham. Not without genuine moments of humour, it never reaches scary heights but always it feels off-kilter, the revenge dream attack angle devilish and the production has good quality about it. Very good. Alan Badel co-stars and although the three stories are not related, he is the constant actor in all three. Grand old British trilogy. 8/10
Three stories of murder and the supernatural. In the first, a museum
worker is introduced to a world behind the pictures he sees every day.
Second, when two lifelong friends fall in love with the same woman and
she is killed, they are obvious suspects. Is their friendship strong
enough for them to alibi each other? Third, when a young politician is
terribly hurt by the arrogant Secretary for Foreign Affairs Lord
Mountdrago, he uses Mountdrago's dreams to get revenge.
Orson Welles received top billing, but he appears only in "Lord Mountdrago." According to Patrick Macnee, who had a supporting role, Welles began making suggestions to director George More O'Ferrall throughout the first day of filming, and by the third day he had taken over the direction of the entire segment.
Does this surprise anyone? Of course Welles would be the star to draw audiences in, and of course he would try to take over the production, because that was very much the sort of chap he was. For better or worse, a film starring Welles was very much a Welles film.
As far as anthologies go, this one is not often remembered. And as far as horror anthologies go (if this even counts), it seems all but forgotten, overshadowed by the later Amicus films. I love Amicus, and it is hard to beat them, but surely this film must have been some influence on the later Amicus and Hammer productions.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here's a project based on the notion of folded narrative.
There are three stories, and it is marvelous how they complement each other.
The project seems to have been built around the last story. It is by Somerset Maugham, adapted by the producer and starring Orson Welles. Orson was deep into his newly found soulmate and had just finished Mr. Arkadin, something special. The story is of a man, Orson's character, who makes an enemy. This enemy vows to destroy his spirit and begins to enter Orson's dreams. In "real life" he acknowledges having done so. This drives Orson mad, and to his death.
Orson understood this notion of folded acting, where several layers of character as well as story are supported. We aren't at all sure what is dream, what is imagined and real. We are not sure who is the narrator: Orson, the enemy or some third observer. Orson supports all three. It is marvelous. We may never have another one with this depth.
This final story is masterfully prepared by the two previous stories.
The first is of mysteries in an art museum. Objects disappear, and a certain painting's frameglass breaks.
The fold is that the most engaging painting in the building is the one whose glass breaks. It is painted by an unknown. We learn that this painter, now dead, occupies the house in the painting, with a couple others who were "assigned" to the painting. The house contains the art objects stolen from the museum. The story concerns the constraints of the folded medium, and how difficult it is to keep painting the painting once you are in it.
The second story is a more ordinary fold: the framing of a friend for a murder, convincing that friend that he is guilty. The narrator, as we discover, is untrusted and has lied to us as well. This sets up our man Orson, whose "Mr. Arkadin," just happens to have precisely these three folds.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Plaudits to "Talking Pictures TV" for putting this criminally - neglected British gem into their late - night schedules. One of the later "portmanteau" works, anchored by the urbane Mr Eamonn Andrews who was huge on English television in the mid 1950s,"Three cases of murder" featured the extraordinary talents of Alan Badel in all three segments. The first - directed by Wendy Toye - is one of the cinema's eeriest experiences.Much of it shot in deep focus and at weird angles and with intense acting by Mr Badel as the ghost of a painter whose work is on display at a small museum. This also features Eddie Byrne as a barking mad naturalist called "Snyder"whose hobby is pinning insects to pieces of card.His latest acquisition(human) is several times referred to as "Snyder's trophy" - an allusion that may well be lost on 21st century viewers but would not have escaped a contemporary audience. I found it very disconcerting and a minor triumph for director and actors both. The second features the amiable John Gregson in a rare non - military role as one of a pair of chums inseparable since school who both go up to Cambridge(Trinity College) and from there to the advertising industry before falling for the same woman with entirely predictable results. THe main interest for modern viewers is the entirely civilised way the (rather ancient) undergraduates behave at their "May Ball" compared to their successors. Finally Orson Welles stars as the arrogant Foreign Secretary who belittles the splendid Alan Badel(A Welsh Firebrand M.P.) on the floor of the House and soon wishes he hadn't. The expected amount of scenery is chewed and as long as the cheque cleared I suspect Welles was a happy man. Do catch this if you possibly can.Hardly anyone will have heard of it and it really is worth the effort. In particular,the Wendy Toye episode is required viewing for serious students of British movies.
THREE CASES OF MURDER is a fun if little known British horror
anthology, consisting of three stories all linked by murder and
mysterious death. This is very much a cosy little production in which
the horror and fantastic elements are played down, but it does share
stylistic similarities with the likes of the Ealing classic DEAD OF
NIGHT. It's much tamer than the later Amicus anthologies.
As ever, the quality of the stories is mixed, with the first being the best. The main character is the curator of an art gallery who learns of the mysterious background of a particularly atmospheric painting of a spooky old house. He visits the house itself and the sinister occupiers, as well as the artist, only to learn of a terrifying secret. This story boasts strong acting and some great visuals and it's the highlight of the film - and the most supernatural.
The second story is the weakest of the trio and also instantly forgettable. A couple of guys are accused of the murder of a girl, and each provides an alibi for the other. The characters are weak and unmemorable and nothing much happens. The third story is dominated by the presence of star Orson Welles who brings a ton of bluster and charisma to his role of the unpleasant House of Lords member who finds himself haunted by a rival in his dreams. It's essentially an extension of the whole Macbeth/Banquo angle yet Welles makes it his own and lifts the material considerably. The humour might be a bit too broad here but it's a nice way to end a fun and atmospheric little production.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
All three stories contained within this film have interesting concepts, but they don't quite reach their full potential. The best is the first, directed by a woman (Wendy Toye), mainly for a fantastic (in every sense of the word), hypnotic sequence of two people entering a painting; this story is certainly highly imaginative, but the dialogue does tend to ramble a little. The second story, about two childhood friends and the woman who comes between them, has a good setup, but the big twist is blindingly obvious; to be fair, though, what happens after the big twist is much less so. The third story also has a great concept (a man entering another man's dreams at will), but it goes on too long, and in my opinion Orson Welles is slightly miscast as a victimized character. Alan Badel, who appears as three different characters in all three stories, walks away with the acting honors. **1/2 out of 4.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was a late entry at the tail-end of the portmanteau mini trend that peaked in the late forties/early fifties; coincidentally the trend was given a second wind by the four stories penned by Somerset Maugham and released as 'Quartet' in 1948 and here again the last of the three segments, Lord Mountdrago is another adaptation of a Maugham story and Orson Welles as the eponymous Mountdrago is the only reason to watch this. In a nice touch the three stories are introduced by Eamonn Andrews who could just as well have stood in for John Gregson in the second segment and chances are there was serious betting on the set as to which of the two was the most wooden. The first segment features arguably the most imagination and macabre content and concerns a painting in a museum that fascinates a member of staff to the extent that he actually enters into it and is unable to leave. Elizabeth Sellars, the closest thing to a real actor - if we discount Welles - in the whole thing, is wasted in the second segment and probably couldn't wait to get killed off. Wendy Toye had directed Alan Badel in his breakout role 'The Stranger Left No Card' a couple of years earlier and may have had something to do with his appearing in all three segments plus directing him in the first. Don't put off washing your hair to watch this one.
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