Thursday, September 7, 2017
The Solitary Child (1958)
Captain James Random (Philip Friend) brings his new wife Harriet (Barbara Shelley) back to Random Farm. Captain Random had been accused of murdering his first wife but had been acquitted. Harriet isn’t worried, being convinced that Random’s first wife’s death was an accident. Soon however she begins to have her doubts. There seem to have been rather a lot of secrets at Random Farm. Everyone seems to know something about Eva Random’s death and, disturbingly, these include things that had not been mentioned at all at the trial.
Eva Random had been carrying on a notorious affair with Jean’s young and very disreputable brother. James Random obviously had a motive for murder but he was far from alone in that.
This is a solid enough little plot with enough red herrings to keep things interesting. The tension builds inexorably. Can Harriet stay alive long enough to solve the puzzle?
Director Gerald Thomas was better known for the Carry On comedies but he proves himself to be a perfectly competent practitioner in the murder genre. Robert Dunbar’s script, based on Nina Bawden’s novel, hits all the right notes.
Barbara Shelley is at her most ravishing and she delivers a very effective performance, with just enough hysteria but combined with a certain amount of courage and determination. She was one of Britain’s best actresses of the 50s and she’s in top form here.
The Solitary Child is an engaging and very well-crafted low-key murder mystery with a fine cast and a stellar performance by Barbara Shelley. Highly recommended.