AVAILABLE ON REGION 1 DVD
RUNNING TIME: 85 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
An American, who has been given the name of Chris Smith, wakes up in an English hospital unable to remember anything of his life before a recent car accident. His only link to the past is a newspaper cut out of a beautiful girl. Four months later he has recovered physically but has still not retrieved his memory, even though his amnesia is being treated by a psychiatrist, Dr. Keller, who tells him that his bills are being paid by an anonymous benefactor, and who has made an apartment available to him. Upon release from the hospital, Chris moves into the apartment, which turns out to be a penthouse suite, but at night he hears the people next door having terrible fights… except there isn’t anyone next door. He also finds a bloody knife in his apartment…
Much like Maniac, this entry in the Jimmy Sangster-scripted [except for the non-Sangster Fanatic, which was made after this movie but was released before] Hammer cycle of twisty psycho thrillers can’t in any way be described as a horror film, and, also much like that picture, is a rather minor affair. Highly reminiscent of Hammer’s middling Stop Me Before I Kill, Hysteria is initially highly intriguing, even though it is setting up so many details that you just know that the pay-off will disappoint, and indeed this one explains far too much away by having the hero experience hallucinations. Still, the first half hour of a film which is mostly set in one building comes off quite well without the need for much dialogue, and the ultra-modern austerity of the half empty and half finished interiors are made good use of in a picture which dispenses with most of the Gothic tropes of the earlier pictures. Unfortunately, director Freddie Francis otherwise doesn’t seem too interested in the proceedings, perhaps because he failed to get on with star Robert Webber, who was forced on to the project by distributors MGM. Webber isn’t too good either despite his womanising, violent character being a bit different from the norm.
It all just about holds the attention despite not being as suspenseful as it ought to be, while I worked out some of what was going on quite early on, which isn’t a good thing considering how bad I usually am at guessing this kind of stuff. While it’s possible to forgive a few minor things in the name of entertainment, this film is full of dumb details, from Smith not bothering to call the US Embassy to get them to research his identity, to him being able to sneak into England in the boot of a car, though the English girl who helps him suddenly falling in love with him is an amusingly quirky touch. Smith seeing a woman he’s been told has been brutally murdered and a lengthy flashback, oddly placed in the middle of the film, take the viewer out of the main location for some fresh air, and there a few good performances to enjoy, notably Maurice Denham as a typically shabby looking detective who turns out to be rather good in a fight, and a cameo from Peter Woodthorpe [who was one of the best things in The Evil Of Frankenstein, and that film’s Monster has a tiny part in this film too] as a sleazy model photographer. However, the jazzy score by Don Banks, whilst fine on its own, is absurdly inappropriate and just seems like it’s been pasted onto the film. While I wasn’t at all bored, I was generally left with the feeling that Hammer, who obviously wanted to try a more realistic, modernistic piece, didn’t really try very hard with this one.