Saturday, June 8, 2024

We Shall See (1964)

We Shall See is a 1964 entry in the British Merton Park cycle of Edgar Wallace thrillers.

Evan Collins (Maurice Kaufmann) is an ex-RAF officer and now an airline pilot. His marriage to Alva (Faith Brook) is stormy to say the least. She is determined to persuade him to give up flying and she taunts him as a failure. There’s lots of tension between them.

They live in a house in the country. The staff comprises Ludo (Alec Mango), an old family retainer, and Ludo’s pretty young niece Jirina (Talitha Pol).

Alva has a brother, Greg (Alex MacIntosh). There’s tension between brother and sister. Alva cheated Greg out of an inheritance. Greg still has hopes of getting his share.

Alva is an evil, bad-tempered, childish, manipulative, selfish and cruel woman. She’s also crazy and paranoid. Seriously crazy. She’s spent time in a mental hospital but Evan doesn’t know this.

Greg is having an affair with Jirina. That’s their business, except that Alva would like to make it her business. She’d like to wreck things for them out of sheer mean-spiritedness.

Things get more tense when Evan has a car accident. He will recover but it will take time. Alva becomes convinced that Evan is having an affair with Rosemary (Bridget Armstrong), a pretty nurse at the hospital. Alva is out to get Rosemary.

Alva sees conspiracies everywhere. She thinks everybody hates her. In fact she has given everybody who comes in contact with her plenty of reasons to hate her.

That car accident has led to a minor court case for careless driving but Alva sees her opportunity to wreck Evan’s career by claiming he was drunk. That would cost him his job at the airline.

Alva is also out to get Ludo. She wants him evicted. He has lived in that house for decades. It is his home. Again Alva’s motive is sheer nastiness. Ludo keeps bees. Alva hates bees. Therefore Alva hates Ludo.

There’s clearly plenty of potential here for real trouble, such as murder. There are plenty of people with motives that might well lead them to commit murder.

Naturally trouble does come, but it comes with an unexpected twist. We have a pretty fair idea of what’s happened and how and why it happened but the identity of the person responsible remains uncertain.

The actual solution is something of a surprise. There were plenty of obvious endings that would have been in tune with audience expectations in 1964 but scriptwriter Donal Giltinan rather daringly goes for something less obvious that the audience would not have expected.

In fact all the way through Giltinan takes a subtly unconventional approach. The screenplay includes many of the clichés of the genre but they don’t play out in clichéd ways.

There are no big stars here but all of the performances are very solid. Faith Brooks overacts outrageously as Alva but it’s a part that demands an over-the-top approach. It’s a tricky rôle - Alva is evil but she’s also insane and we have to feel at least some pity for her.

Everything revolves around Alva so it’s appropriate that Brooks’ performance should dominate the movie. The other characters are puppets dancing to her tune so it’s also appropriate that the other performances should be much more low-key.

Like most of the directors of films in this series Quentin Lawrence spent most of his career in television. He might be an inspired director but he keeps the action moving along.

We Shall See is an unassuming low-key little movie that turns out to be more interesting than the viewer would have expected. I enjoyed it. It’s just quirky enough to earn a highly recommended rating.

This movie is included in Network’s Edgar Wallace Mysteries Volume 6 DVD boxed set. There are no extras but the transfer (the film was shot widescreen and black-and-white) is excellent.

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