Aston (Robert Shaw), a quiet, reserved man, lives alone in a top-floor cluttered room of a small abandoned house in a poor London district. He befriends and takes in Mac Davies (Donald ... See full summary »
Another Edgar Wallace adaptation from Merton Park, 'The Sinister Man' benefits from fast-paced direction by Clive Donner (with some very effective compositions and one nice 'jump' moment) and pleasant location work along the Thames in the early '60's.
Unfortunately this is one of the sillier entries in the series. First, there is the implausible 'MacGuffin' of a plot centered around international intrigue involving a fictional Asian country (think of China/Tibet and you have the idea). Then there is a very lacklustre cast who seem to want to be anywhere rather than making the film. John Bentley does little to convey any detective powers and Patrick Allen as a supposedly American academic makes no attempt at any accent whatever. There are plenty of the red herrings typical of a Wallace mystery but they just become tiresome rather than absorbing. I could not tell you who was 'the sinister man' because nobody was in the least sinister.
The whole thing comes to a 'climax' with one of those embarrassing fight/action sequences in which the action is feeble, where neither actor really knows how to stage a fight convincingly, and in any case is doubled for their falls by stunt men who do not resemble them in the least.
The final scene gave me a strange feeling of déja vu, until I remembered the Columbo episode 'A Case of Immunity'. If we assume Wallace originated this plot device in the 1920's, then the Columbo writers must - at the very least - have 'borrowed' it 50 years later.
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