Intriguing but over-extended audience teaser, strengthened by Moore's career-best performance.
11 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Roger Moore rates his performance in The Man Who Haunted Himself as the best of his career. It makes for a rather interesting insight when actors or directors or composers reveal what they consider their finest work. While the film itself in this case may not be the best that the actor has ever appeared in, Moore is probably right about his performance in it. He gets to register hitherto unseen emotions and nuances as the title character, and the script demands more "genuine" acting than he ever had to produce in the days of The Saint, The Persuaders, James Bond, or indeed any of his other movies.

A dull and conservative business man named Harold Pelham (Roger Moore) is driving home from work one day when he does something extremely uncharacteristic. Almost as if possessed, he removes his seatbelt and drives terrifyingly fast, ultimately crashing his car. Later, while the unconscious Pelham is on an operating table his heart temporarily stops and it is only thanks to the speedy reactions of the doctors that he is revived. For a moment after his revival, something very strange happens – TWO heartbeats are briefly detected on the heart monitor. The operating doctors simply assume that their equipment is faulty. A while later, the fully healed Pelham returns to his usual routines – family life, work, social life, etc. But soon weird events start to plague him – people claim to have spoken to him the week before even though he has been on holiday; people turn up for lunch at his house when he swears he hasn't invited them; one man even pays up for losing a snooker match against him at the club, when in actual fact Pelham has no memory of playing the game. At work, a business opportunity involving a new electronic device is beset with problems as an alleged "mole" leaks details of the product to a rival company. Pelham begins to suspect that an impostor is trying to sabotage his life. Gradually, the awful truth becomes clear. When he died on the operating table and had to be resuscitated, a doppelganger (or "alter ego") was released…. and now the real Pelham and his sinister double are locked in a life-and-death struggle against each other.

The Man Who Haunted Himself is an intriguing "thinking-man's" bloodcurdler. The story (by Anthony Armstrong) had already seen light as a 30-minute short on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This extended version fleshes things out a bit more, and spends more time philosophising about the definition of identity, with Moore giving a riveting turn both as the bewildered hero and his evil double. In some ways the extra details inadvertently weaken the story, distracting audience attention from the teasing plot by dragging in too many characters and subplots. But it is worth persevering with the film through its periodic lulls, especially so that one can enjoy the absolutely terrific final scene – a thrilling car chase in which the real Pelham and the doppelganger pursue each until one of them plunges to his death over the side of a bridge. The ending is wonderfully unsettling and thought-provoking. On the whole, The Man Who Haunted Himself is a worthwhile audience teaser, a little drawn-out and heavy-handed in parts, but generally an enjoyable excursion into the supernatural for those who like such things.
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