The Third Alibi is a rather obscure little 1961 low-budget British murder mystery. It’s always a joy when a movie like this turns out to be a lot more special than one would expect. This one is in fact a neglected gem.
Composer Norman Martell (Laurence Payne) is married to Helen (Patricia Dainton) but he’s having an affair with Helen’s half-sister Peggy (Jane Griffiths). Peggy is putting a lot of pressure on Norman to ask Helen for a divorce. Peggy is determined that Norman is going to marry her. Unfortunately (for Norman) Helen absolutely refuses to consider giving him a divorce. As so often happens in crime movies it occurs to the adulterous couple that murdering Helen would solve all their problems. Norman has cooked up an elaborate plan for the perfect murder. He has gone into the matter in painstaking detail. Both he and Peggy will have rock-solid unbreakable alibis. Two alibis that will guarantee success.
Maurice J. Wilson and Montgomery Tully wrote the screenplay and it’s a very fine piece of work, intricately constructed and with a very neat symmetry as the third major plot twist kicks in at the end.
Tully also directed. He was responsible for numerous low-budget features and his directing style is unostentatious but quietly effective.
John Arnatt is quite splendid as the quietly spoken Superintendent Ross, a man who does his job without fuss but with thoroughness and efficiency.
This is a low-budget movie but the great thing about crime pictures is that they don’t need big budgets. It was obviously shot mostly (or even possibly almost entirely) in the studio but it doesn’t look cheap or shoddy. Production values are perfectly adequate. It’s the writing and the performances that matter and there are no problems in those departments.
Running time is 68 minutes and there’s not a wasted minute in the movie.
Night Was Our Friend is also pretty good. I haven’t had a chance to watch A Stranger in Town. It’s a UK DVD but the good news is that it’s all-region.
The Third Alibi is a very nifty little movie with a clever plot and and excellent performances. Very highly recommended.