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Friday, September 26, 2014

THE UNHOLY FOUR /aka - THE STRANGER CAME HOME (1954)

Inexplicably dull. In this suspenseless murder mystery/police procedural a husband returns from a fishing trip . . . four years late. His wife & three pals from the trip all thought him dead. Nope, amnesia. Now recovered, he returns to find one of his travel buds freshly dead and himself a suspect in the murder case. A decent enough set up for a small film noir; plus a late career appearance from Paulette Goddard, holding onto a bit of film glamour between her infinitely more interesting marriages. But the story, taken from a novel by the actor George Sanders, never gets off the back burner under Terence Fisher’s sleepy megging. (With its generally languid pace made even more insufferable by enough posh accents to fill a year’s worth of Masterpiece Theatre.) Goddard seems to be in fine shape, but looks unhappy under foggy lens enhancement she hardly needs, and foggy co-stars who do little to enliven things.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Perhaps William Sylvester’s blasé boredom as the returning husband brought him to the attention of Stanley Kubrick who cast him as the tight-lipped scientist sent to the moon to investigate filmdom’s most famous plinth in 2001/’68. Oh . . . that’s why he looks so familiar.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Lon Chaney’s caper scam THE UNHOLY THREE (silent in ’25 or as his sole Talkie in ‘30), the one with Harry Earles’ cigar-smoking ’midget’ playing an infant, has nothing to do with THE UNHOLY FOUR, but . . . well, you see the connection.

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