Movie Diary 10/23/2018

Scream of Fear (Seth Holt, 1961). Susan Strasberg plays a young woman in a wheelchair who returns to the family Côte d’Azur estate to find her father out of town and the place run by a frosty-blank stepmother (Ann Todd) and the strapping chauffeur (Ronald Lewis). A guessing game, with a few horrific moments, ensues. Man, there were a lot of movies like this at the time. This one is very nicely handled, as Holt and cinematographer Douglas Slocombe create a morbid sense of the home as a trap. Strasberg doesn’t leave much of an impression, but Ann Todd (a few years past her work on The Paradine Case and her films with ex-husband David Lean) squeezes every ounce out of her ambiguous close-ups.

The Green Man (Robert Day, 1956). A very swift, sprightly movie, with some of the sardonic humor of Kind Hearts and Coronets. Alastair Sim plays an assassin (usually killing people who deserve it) plotting to place a bomb in the vicinity of a politician (Raymond Huntley). This leads to major farcical complications involving a vacuum cleaner salesman (George Cole) and the assassin’s new neighbor (the fun Jill Adams); her fiancé (Colin Gordon) is a stuffy BBC radio host from whom she needs to be liberated. Terry-Thomas gets high billing but only appears in the final act, to amusing effect. Good comic timing throughout, and Sim gives a very spirited, physically busy performance. This was the first film directed by Robert Day, who went on to a long career in Hollywood, making some key early-70s TV-movies and working on pretty much every TV series you can name. Apparently he didn’t get on with Sim, and part of this film was directed by Basil Dearden.

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