Deadly Strangers (1974)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Psycho on the loose.

A dangerous mental patient has escaped from a nearby asylum. Belle Adams (Hayley Mills) is the beautiful women whose car has just broken down and she accepts a ride from Stephan Slade (Simon Ward) who just may be that patient.

This seems very similar to See No Evil which also took place in the English countryside and also hid the killer’s identity until the very end. There though it was a big letdown finding out who he was while here it is actually what makes the movie interesting. However, some of the techniques used to conceal the killer’s identity come off as contrived. The opening escape sequence inside the institution, where you see everything from the patient’s point of view is very tacky.

The suspense is minimal and things never really get too intense until the climatic sequence. There are twists and turns throughout, but some of them seem to be put in just to keep the story moving. The overall production values are cheap and the film stock is grainy and faded.

It is nice to see a British movie that doesn’t take place in London. The brown, barren landscape, which looks to have been filmed in the autumn, gives the picture an added visual. The car they drive is another sight as it looks as flimsy as a Yugo.

Mills makes a daring film choice here and it does her well. She no longer has that mousy, awkward look. She is a pretty full grown woman with a nice short haircut. She acts more mature and streetwise without that wide eyed persona that she had in all those Disney movies. Her nude scenes aren’t bad and are even a bit gratuitous.

Ward has never seemed to be that great of an actor. He has always had a tired look on his face and plods through his parts in much the same way. Sterling Hayden is fun playing an aging womanizer and sporting a wild beard and hairstyle. He talks in a goofy Scottish accent and amusingly tries to court Hayley, but unfortunately he is on for only a short time.

The final twist is pretty good, but a real sharp viewer will figure it out before it happens because I did! The film is a nice alternative for Mills despite a tendency to be gimmicky and flat. It is also the only time I have ever seen a policeman pull over a car and when the driver is unable to find his license is simply allowed to drive away.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: February 16, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sidney Hayers

Studio: Fox-Rank

Available: VHS

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