Monday, January 30, 2012

Someone Behind the Door (1971)

          Actor Charles Bronson tended to play it safe, bouncing between the only slightly varied genres of lighthearted action movies and violent action movies. However, he occasionally slipped an oddity into the mix, like this clever psychological thriller featuring Bronson as an amnesiac exploited by a ruthless shrink. However, big air quotes should be placed around the word “clever” since the plot of Someone Behind the Door falls apart on close inspection, with convenient twists and narrative inconsistencies leaving scads of questions unanswered. Nonetheless, the movie zips along at a strong pace, there’s a thick air of menace surrounding everything that happens, and costar Anthony Perkins thrives in his comfort zone as a tweaked smartypants using his wits to plan the perfect murder.
          The story takes place in France, where American-born doctor Laurence Jeffries (Anthony Perkins) specializes in brain surgery and memory loss. Leaving the hospital one evening, he spots an amnesiac man (Bronson) whom fishermen found wandering on a local beach. Offering the stranger a place to stay and free psychiatric services (under the auspices of helping with a research project), Jeffries brings the man home and helps the stranger piece together clues about his past based upon circumstantial evidence and items Jeffries finds in the man’s garments. Or at least that’s what Bronson’s character thinks. In reality, Jeffries is deluding the stranger into thinking he’s married to Frances (Jill Ireland), who is in fact Jeffries’ adulterous wife; Jeffries’ devious scheme is to push the stranger toward killing Frances’ lover so Jeffries can off a romantic rival and pin the murder on the stranger.
          Perkins runs the show from start to finish, his insinuating line deliveries and wily glances capturing an insidious type of blue-blooded villainy. For his part, Bronson makes a decent scene partner by demonstrating more excitability than usual. The movie gets a bit drab when it veers away from these two sharing the screen (Ireland is her usual vapid self), and some viewers may find the plot glitches too distracting. However, Someone Behind the Door is consistently tense, and the charisma of its leading players makes it worth examination.

Someone Behind the Door: FUNKY

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