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Suspend Your Disbelief and Just Watch It for the Acting
Before addressing the acting, which I regard as uniformly superb throughout, I should add my agreement with several other reviewers that there are several scenes in this film that are simply repetitive, so that it might have been more effective with about 15 or 20 minutes cut out of it. However, it is still highly effective as is, due to the acting of four of the five principals, those being Diane Cilento, Ronald Lewis, Claude Dauphin and Bernard Braden. The fifth, the damned-near immortal Francoise Rosay is fine, but really contributes little to the film from an acting standpoint; she simply has little to do and nothing to act. It's the kind of role that in an American film would have been given to Argentina Brunetti or Celia Lovsky!
I'd never heard of this movie before - surprisingly, since I am a devotee of British film and acting from all periods and because this is, at least in the three leading roles, an impressive cast listing. I thought Cilento's accent was just fine throughout (if I didn't know her from anything else, I would never have thought of her as coming from Down Under); to me, it sounded Italian, but she uses a lot of French phrases and speaks French to others (the film takes place in France and England), so maybe that has confused other reviewers. The character's first name, "Denise", certainly sounds French rather than Italian, but that doesn't mean too much in a world where we have a noted Irish operatic baritone named Bruno Caproni! As with everything I've ever seen her in, Cilento is wonderful throughout, and very sexy in both voice and aspect. She beautifully captures both the character's love for, and fright of, her seemingly demented husband. Claude Dauphin was a pretty famous actor on both sides of the Atlantic at this time, and this is by far the best outing I have seen from him in an English-language film. I used to find him fairly hard to understand in our language, but not so in this one - and he has some really difficult dialogue (lots of it, and much of it replete with scientific jargon) to get through. He captures the psychiatrist's intelligence, egotism and kindness throughout, yet we are aware that there may be more to him than he shows on the surface. As for Ronald Lewis, I could never understand why he never became anything like an international star. He was a very good actor, with a resonant voice and wide emotional range, both very handsome and very macho (like good old George O'Brien, somebody always got him to remove his shirt in the course of a movie), and quite volatile as both villains and heroes - kind of like a visual and emotive cross between Stephen Boyd and Kirk Douglas. (This may have carried over to his personal life, as he did commit suicide when only 53.) Anyway, this is a very difficult role to play convincingly and he does it about as well as can be imagined (in fact, in this film he really did remind me of Stephen Boyd). A bit of a surprise is Bernard Braden, a Canadian actor with whom I was almost totally unfamiliar, but who plays an old friend of Lewis's who is about the only completely normal character in the film (Cilento is lovable, but hardly normal, unless one considers going to bed with someone you know may strangle you in the middle of the night to be normal), but he plays him extremely well and with a kind of of Everyman quality and lack of flair. Rosay, as I already said, is wasted here, but her English is actually less accented than is Dauphin's, perhaps reminding us that this most quintessentially French of French actresses did appear in a good number of English-language films during her long career.
With a few outdoor scenes deleted, this film could almost serve as a play for three major acting talents, so it is a bit 'talky', but the talk is pretty solid. Anyway, there is lots of emotional excess here and the actors are really up to it, and despite its overlong process in reaching a somewhat surprising, if well thought out, denouement, it maintains and builds interest and suspense throughout. It probably deserves a 6 rating, but being performance oriented, I give it an 8. If you enjoy watching good actors act, this is a film for you. Suspend your disbelief and just enjoy it.
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