Sunday, July 12, 2015

In short: The Accursed (1957)

aka The Traitor

A former German resistance group against the Nazis (among them Anton Diffring, Christopher Lee and Jane Griffiths) annually meet at the British country home of their second leader, Colonel Price (Donald Wolfit) to commemorate the murder of their first leader Gerhardt by fascist hands. This year, though, Price has gotten the disquieting information from someone in his employ that one member of the group had betrayed Gerhardt to the Nazis. Who exactly the traitor was is apparently the sort of thing one can’t mention on the phone, so Price’s man will make a personal appearance at the reunion.

Alas, once he arrives, someone knifes the spy in the back before he can tell Price much, so now everyone in the Colonel’s old dark house is under suspicion. Things become mildly more complicated when a British intelligence officer of no consequence and US Major Shane (Robert Bray, the usual third rate American actor this sort of British production hired to be able to sell overseas, for Americans always were constitutionally unable to stomach films not containing Americans, it seems) arrive under a thin pretext. Soon, everyone emotes melodramatically, Shane barks questions, and, if the audience is really lucky, somebody else is going to get murdered.

So yes, it’s another Old Dark House mystery, though one without a gorilla, instead making an attempt to give the usual tale of a bunch of character actors under suspicion of murder in a conveniently small number of sets a bit of a grounding in at the time still very near history. One would be tempted to say “to give it a twist”, but that would afford a more interesting script than the one director Michael McCarthy delivered - you know, one that is actually interested in exploring what the times they had to live throw did with its characters instead of one just using it for a bit of melodramatic shouting.

What we get instead is a competent yet deeply unexciting parade of character actors having the usual melodramatic outbursts, taking on silly accents if they’re not actually continental Europeans, and suffering from being terribly underwritten and just not very interesting. There’s some good lingering by Lee, and Diffring does his usual neurotic shtick, but there’s little of substance in the film for them to get their teeth into. The plot moves slow as molasses, and I found myself drifting away while the film went through 70 long minutes of motions I’ve seen made with more conviction in many earlier films.

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