AKA THE FULL TREATMENT
AVAILABLE ON REGION 1 DVD
RUNNING TIME: 120 min/ 107 min/ 93 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Having just got married, racing car driver Alan Colby and his wife Denise are involving in a crash when a truck comes hurtling towards them. Following a lengthy recovery, during which Alan gives up racing, the couple proceed with their overdue honeymoon and go to the French Riviera. However, Alan not only begins to have a very quick temper but is struck with a compulsion to strangle his wife. Dr. David Prade, a local psychiatrist, offers to help, but his offer is rejected by Alan and he and Denise return to London. David follows them there, convinced that sooner or later his services will be needed and that he should be close at hand….
Though their usual writer Jimmy Sangster wasn’t involved with this one, Stop Me Before I Kill is really the first in the cycle of the twisty psycho thrillers made by Hammer in the 60’s. Director Val Guest also produced and co-wrote the screenplay with the Ronald Scott Thorn, author of the novel on which it was based, The Full Treatment, which is also the original British title of the film. It ran to exactly two hours in the UK and was cut to 90 min for its US release. The Region 1 DVD of the film is 107 min long, seemingly corresponding with the US TV version. I would say that it’s a shame that the full version couldn’t be released, though considering that even the 107 cut seems a bit too long and protracted, I can’t see it working too well at all. The film begins well with the aftermath of the crash shown in a series of excellently chosen shots which give us a hell of a lot of information without a single line of dialogue, and the premise immediately grabs you, but repetition sets in with Alan constantly losing his temper with his wife and others, and then visiting David in another series of lengthy dialogue scenes, though the portrayal of psychiatry is interesting; at one point, David forces Alan to breath carbon dioxide in order to literally choke repressed memories out of him. It doesn’t help that Alan isn’t really a sympathetic sort, and you wonder why his wife doesn’t go to the police.
Things do pick up two thirds of the way through with Alan possibly having killed, though the real reason for Alan’s psychotic behaviour is disappointingly straight forward and, while I’m normally not very good at guessing these things, I’d worked most of the plot out come the so-called ‘surprise’ twist. Nonetheless Stop Me Before I Kill does keep one interested. It really seems to be about male fear of female emasculation, while Guest gives us a few very strong individual scenes here and there which show his skills as a director, notably a frantic night time car drive shot in very ‘modern’ quick cuts, swift pans and odd angles, two tense moments where it really does seem that Denise will be murdered by her husband, the camera restlessly whipping around David’s office suggesting Alan’s view point during a pyshiatry session, and a great, if not graphic, death scene on a cable car. Nice to see a scene from a film of this vintage where a black woman sits at a high society dinner table and her presence goes unremarked too. Ronald Lewis’s resemblance to David Hasselhoff, and Diane Cilento’s switching back and forth from a French accent to an Italian one, add entertainment value, while the French setting of much of the story provides glamour, but overall Stop Me Before I Kill is one of those films that has all the right ingredients but just doesn’t catch fire the way that it should. And I have the feeling that the 90 min edit could very well be the better version.