Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)

          A British psychological drama distinguished by a mystery element that keeps viewers guessing whether or not something supernatural is actually occurring, The Man Who Haunted Himself is very much in the mode of a Twilight Zone episode—characterization and plotting are used to generate suspense until the story reaches its outlandish conclusion. While some folks will find the larky narrative more persuasive than others, it’s always a kick to see Roger Moore testing the limits of his dramatic powers. Although he’s about as effective as the film itself, which is to say only somewhat, he commits to the material. Watching an actor who sleepwalked through some of his highest-profile movies contribute real effort is pleasurable, no matter the inconsistently of the results.
          Moore plays Hugh Pelham, a businessman whose life is stiffly regimented, from the patterns of his daily work schedule to the rhythms of his stagnant marriage. One afternoon, Hugh experiences an inexplicable seizure while driving—clunky special effects make it appear as if a phantom version of Hugh’s car appears in tandem with the real vehicle—so Hugh causes a terrible accident. On an operating table shortly afterward, Hugh dies for a moment, and then his doctors briefly see two heartbeats on an EKG monitor. Thereafter, Hugh endures several maddening incidents, such as being told he just left a room that he’s entering, suggesting that someone who looks identical to Hugh is tampering with his life. For instance, Hugh encounters a sexy photographer, Julie (Olga Georges-Picot), who claims that she’s having an affair with Hugh even though he has no recollection of sleeping with her. The filmmakers cleverly circumvent their basic storytelling problem—an unseen antagonist—and Moore does a fair job of sketching his character’s progression from bewilderment to petulance to, finally, the brink of madness.
          The movie also gets quite weird at times, especially during a long scene in which eccentric psychiatrist Dr. Harris (Freddie Jones) explains doppelganger theories to a worried-looking Hugh: While Harris repeatedly spins Hugh’s chair to keep it moving, the camera, which is positioned at an extreme low-angle, moves in tandem with Harris, creating a dizzying funhouse effect. Oh, and for an added bonus, The Man Who Haunted Himself features a line that’s quite droll in retrospect, seeing as how the picture was released two years before Moore assumed the role of a certain secret agent. While discussing corporate espionage with coworkers, Moore’s character says, “Intrigue isn’t all James Bond and her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Are you sure about that, Mr. Moore?

The Man Who Haunted Himself: GROOVY


Charles T. Tatum, Jr. said...

I've been fascinated with seeing this film since I first read about it in Leonard Maltin's capsule review book when I was a kid!

irish said...

I wonder if Freddie Jones was supposed to be R.D Laing?