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Thursday, September 27, 2012

THE SCAPEGOAT (1959)

The problem with this Daphne du Maurier doppelgänger murder mystery is less in its preposterous story than in its unbelievably dull execution. Alec Guinness is the British everyman who runs into his exact double while on holiday in France. Drugged and planted at the double’s estate, he can’t get a soul to believe his odd tale (hmm, wonder why?) and soon falls pleasantly into his new role as husband & father, with a mistress on the side. But when someone dies, and Guinness seems the likely suspect, he knows his mysteriously disappearing double has set him up. Robert Hamer seems a spent force on this one, far off his stylish megging on KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS/’49. He does pull off a couple of neat camera tricks for Guinness’s double-act, but the Gore Vidal adaptation can’t make a case for the story or for the all-neurotic cast of characters. Pamela Brown & Bette Davis flail about hopefully, but to little effect, and while it’s always a treat to see a rare appearance from the great Irene Worth, playing Guinness’s unhappy wife, this is quite a drop from T. S. Eliot’s THE COCKTAIL PARTY which they had recently done on B’way!

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Guinness had much better luck pulling off a fake double act in THE CAPTAIN’S PARADISE/’53 where’s he’s a single man trying to keep up with two wives, one in each of his regular ports. But for double-trouble, why not give Bette Davis her due with her second shot at the Good Gal/Bad Gal routine in the drekky, but fun DEAD RINGER/’64.

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