Sunday, August 30, 2015

Deadly Record (1959)

Deadly Record is a modest unassuming low-budget British mystery dating from 1959. Some good performances are enough to make it worth a look.

Trevor Hamilton (Lee Patterson) is an airline pilot who arrives home to find his wife Jenny is not there. That’s nothing surprising. She isn’t home very often. Their marriage is pretty much a marriage in name only - as he remarks, they lead separate lives. In fact she lives in her studio at the back of her house. She was a dancer before her marriage and her one ambition is to return to the stage. Trevor is unconcerned by her absence, takes a sleeping tablet and goes to bed. In the morning he is awoken by a police constable investigating a minor traffic accident in which Jenny had been involved. The constable insists on looking around and much to Trevor’s surprise and consternation he discovers Jenny’s dead body in the studio. She has been murdered.

It’s never been much of a secret that the Hamiltons were not exactly a shining example of wedded bliss, so it’s natural enough for Superintendent Ambrose (Geoffrey Keen playing yet another role as a policeman) to consider Trevor to be the prime suspect.

Trevor’s problem is that although the evidence against him is purely circumstantial and not very strong he has no alibi and the lack of any other suspects is a definite worry. He thinks it might be a good idea to start doing a bit of investigating on his own.

He has one ally, in the person of his friend Susan (Barbara Shelley). It’s fairly obvious that there is some kind of emotional attachment between the two of them, which naturally tends to make Superintendent Ambrose even more suspicious. Trevor already knew that there were quite a few men in his wife’s life and he’s sure that one of them killed her but what he needs to do is to find some evidence.

He does find some evidence but it’s inconclusive and it’s clear that the police are more and more convinced that they already have their killer and they’re not especially interested in any other suspects. It would help if Trevor and Susan could find Jenny’s diary but it seems to have disappeared. Sooner or later time is going to run out and Superintendent Ambrose is going to arrest Trevor and while the case against him is not overwhelming it could be enough to get a conviction.

This is a fairly standard whodunit plot but it’s quite competently executed. Director Lawrence Huntington spent his whole career churning out unremarkable B-features but he does a solid enough job and there are a few quite atmospheric scenes. The low budget is evident in the limited number of sets but the production manages to avoid looking shoddy.

Lee Patterson was a Canadian-born actor who became a reliable B-movie leading man in British movies of the 50s before gaining some degree of fame as one of the stars of the American private eye TV series Surfside 6. He does well here being sympathetic without resorting to self-pity. Barbara Shelley makes a fine leading lady (as always). Playing a copper was no great challenge to Geoffrey Keen but he was a professional and he really did look exactly like the popular image of a 1950s British police detective. Peter Dyneley (best remembered as the voice of Jeff Tracy in the Thunderbirds TV series) is quite impressive as a very not ethical doctor.

The resolution of the plot is quite convincing and believable (which of course is not always the case with mystery movies). There are sufficient red herrings to keep things interesting and the pacing is satisfactorily taut (the very short 58-minute running time certainly helps)

Network’s DVD presentation is barebones but it does offer an excellent anamorphic transfer. The black-and-white cinematography looks quite impressive and suitably moody.

There’s nothing particularly outstanding about this movie but it does what it sets out to do quite effectively and the fine performances by the two leads are major pluses. It’s good low-key entertainment. Recommended.

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