DOC’S JOURNEY INTO HAMMER FILMS #18: THE UNHOLY FOUR [1954]

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Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , , ,

Hammer-films

 

UK

AKA THE STRANGER CAME HOME

AVAILABLE ON R1 DVD

RUNNING TIME: 80 min

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

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Four years ago, Phillip Vickers, on holiday in Portugal, vanished over the side of his fishing boat and was presumed dead. In fact, somebody knocked Philip out and pushed him overboard; Philip survived, but with amnesia which prevented him from contacting his wife Angie or the police. Now, he’s regained his memory and turns up at his wife’s country home where she’s hosting a party for several guests who just happen to coincide with Philip’s list of murder suspects, but then one of them is murdered….

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This run-of-the-mill thriller has a good strong opening, full of mystery and tension, with its main character turning up unannounced at midnight and ominously confronting his old friends in the middle of their party. Then it goes downhill and mostly fails to deliver what it seems to promise, despite some off-screen murders and a pointless subplot involving blackmail, and eventually it just becomes rather dull. It doesn’t even show us, even in flashback, the fishing boat incident that sets up everything else. There’s only a modicum of suspense, the story largely fails to go down the really interesting routes it could have done, and the killer is revealed too early, something which can work for certain stories but not really for this one. It was based on a novel called Stranger At Home which came supposedly from the pen of movie actor George Sanders, but which was actually ghost written by film screenwriter Leigh Brackett. The set-up is certainly intriguing, but director Terence Fisher, who was probably tiring of these films by now, doesn’t attempt to wring much suspense or menace from the country house setting, despite Walter J. Harvey’s cinematography using huge dollops of black throughout.

William Sylvester is an interesting moody hero though fading Hollywood star Paulette Godard [playing a character with almost the same name as Elizabeth Taylor’s in A Place In The Sun] seems to have lost some of her acting ability as his wife as she’s just quite poor throughout. As is sometimes the case, the two cops investigating the case provide some amusement. “Ah, women. They’re getting too capable for their own good these days” says the Inspector at one point, and he even gathers all the suspects together in a drawing room Agatha Christie-style. Generally though this is middling stuff, and doesn’t really deserve to be called film noir unlike many of the others in this series.

Rating: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2296 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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