By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
This review will kick-off a two month long tribute to movies done in the 70’s by Charles Bronson with his wife Jill Ireland. Each Friday I will review one of their films, which will run through April. The only ones that will not be reviewed during this stretch are Love and Bullets, which was already done during our January tribute to Rod Steiger and The Mechanic and Hard Times, which will be done at a later time.
This film is one of the more unusual ones that they did and although not completely successful may still interest Bronson fans simply for a chance at seeing him in an offbeat part. The story concerns neurosurgeon Laurence Jeffries (Anthony Perkins) who takes in a man (Charles Bronson) who has lost his memory and has no idea who he is. Laurence decides to exploit this issue by brainwashing the man into thinking that Laurence’s cheating wife Frances (Jill Ireland) is actually his own and to take action by killing the woman’s lover (Henri Garcin).
The film has a great idea, but the set-up is much too rushed. We are given no backstory to any of the characters. The film opens with Laurence leaving his hospital job and by chance bumping into the man and taking him home before we even know what his motive or plan is. I also found it a bit perplexing that the Dr. character is supposedly conniving and crafty and yet he brings a man into his house while his wife is there sleeping in another room as well as their maid downstairs, which seemed reckless. When his wife awakens the next day and tries to go into the room where the stranger is Laurence panics, but I felt he should have been aware of that potentially happening from the very beginning. He also dictates his plans into a tape recorder, which seemed like prime material to be used for evidence later on.
The psychological side of the story is shallow and transparent. The way Laurence tricks the man into doing his evil bidding was too easy. I realize that the man has lost his memory, but it seems like he has lost his entire brain as well. The character is too child-like and gullible. I also thought that if the man cannot remember his wife and doesn’t know her from anyone else then why would he care if she is fooling around with someone, or get so over-the-top angry about it.
Bronson can be perfect in certain roles, but this is not one of them. Yes, he has a certain likable quality here simply because he plays such a vulnerable and trusting wide-eyed innocent, but the angry emotions that he displays are too rehearsed and over-acted.
Ireland on the other hand is attractive and alluring and comes off well though her part is minimal. The nude photograph of her lying on a sofa that is shown in close-up is sexy.
The film has very little action especially for a Bronson vehicle though the part where the Bronson character sexually attacks Ireland and then the film intercuts this with him simultaneously attacking another woman on a lonely beach is interesting. The ending though is pathetic as it leaves everything wide-open while resolving nothing. The sequence where the camera cuts quickly back and forth between Perkin’s face and then Ireland’s, which is shown continuously over the closing credits is irritating and almost like the filmmaker’s wanted to drive the viewer as crazy as the kooky characters.
With that said I still found the film to be entertaining most of the way. The idea is a fascinating one and it kept me guessing throughout. Director Nicholas Gessner does an adequate job of taking advantage of the gray countryside to create a nice moody feel. A definite mixed bag.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: July 28, 1971
Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes
Director: Nicholas Gessner
Studio: Lira Films
Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video