This is no minor classic. But I wouldn't dismiss it quite as quickly as my fellow reviewers. It looks and feels rather like one of those British 'Quota quickies' churned out sausage-style by Butchers films in the 1950's and 60's. Which is not a bad thing. It's longer than those efforts, though, and has more 'names' - the star is John Mills.
I enjoy the way that the piece depicts safe, sterile suburban middle class life turned upside down. Well, not quite 'turned upside down' exactly: there's a charming little scene where dear Johnnie takes his mind off the fact that he's a man on the run for murder by playing a few rounds of golf. The film has a most agreeable atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Certainty and normality fray at the edges. Nobody can be trusted. Your smoothly amiable best friend of longstanding just might have it in for you. Your fiancée may not be what she seems.
There are some very enjoyable performances. I particularly liked Wilfrid Hyde-White as a civilised but sinister late-night caller. In fact, pretty much everybody in this film does civilised and sinister rather well. Mills is his usual watchable self. The direction is largely uninspired but is nicely unobtrusive: events unfold with pace and sharp simplicity.
If you want to catch a true lost masterpiece of suburban British post-war paranoia, look for Lance Comfort's "Pit of Darkness", with William Franklyn as another urbane professional who finds his routine existence up-ended. There's only one moment in 'The Vicious Circle' to match that film for my money. Don't ask me why, but the scene where Mills turns up at a 'social gathering' and finds only an empty apartment flooded with the sound of pre-recorded party chatter unnerves me every time. It seems that there's a tinge of genuine madness and disruption just lurking at the corners of the frame.
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