Sunday, August 25, 2013


This 1963 film by director/cinematographer Freddie Francis surely puts many of Hammer's productions to shame in terms of storyline,  character development,  and cinematography.  It's black and white photography suggests the poetic isolation of Antonioni at his best,  and certainly adds to the atmospheric dread here.  There is nothing of the camp,  silliness, or color of later Hammer horrors,  and that's definitely a good thing.  Keep in mind that Francis did the wonderful black and white cinematography for David Lynch's ELEPHANT MAN (1980),  and while PARANOIC may be indebted to Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960),  it is certainly no mere copycat.  This is a  film that thrives on surprises and plot twists,  and given the themes of death and insanity,  its understated acting and sublime visual ethic make for an atypical Hammer thriller.  Oliver Reed is simply wonderful as loony alcoholic brother Simon,  who is hellbent on driving haunted sister Eleanor (Janette Scott) mad so that he may become the sole heir to the Ashby fortune.  Aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell) acts as a sort of protective adult,  but who is she protecting?  Oliver Reed's performance suits the material perfectly,  using subtle facial expressions, quirky gestures,  and casually delivered psychosis to flesh out a truly frightening sociopath.  When supposedly long dead (a suicide) brother Tony (Alexander Davion) returns to the family home,  Simon steps up his psychological torture of sister Eleanor.  I wouldn't want to spoil its impact,  but this is a film that gives personal instability, family dysfunctionality, and  unreality's embrace nearly a good name.  Enjoy. 

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