Starring: Alastair Sim, Bryan Forbes, Jane Wenham
Director: Guy Hamilton
J.B. Priestley’s stage play, a thriller cum morality tale about social responsibility, is so famous it needs no introduction. What we have here is a workmanlike adaptation helmed by future Bond director Guy Hamilton and starring Alastair Sim as the eponymous inspector who gatecrashes an Edwardian dinner party with news of a grisly death.
With the writer having visited the set on at least one occasion, it’s a pretty faithful version. It’s only a shame that it’s not more faithful still – the attempt to open out the story with flashbacks, while understandable and done sparingly, inevitably dissipates some of the pressure cooker tension that the piece has in the theatre. Chances are you’ll also wince a bit at Francis Chagrin’s heavy-handed score, which underlines the tiniest plot beats with thunderous orchestral stingers.
But set and costume designs are both lavish, steeped in Edwardian opulence, and it’s all stunningly mounted by cinematographer Ted Scaife (who also worked on Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon). With his the death’s-head grin and his air of languid menace, Sim is predictably in his element, and there are also good performances from Olga Lindo as unrepentant, battleaxey Old Mother Birling and a young Bryan Forbes as the squiffy younger sibling Eric.
The HD transfer is sleek and gorgeous, without a trace of grain. Extras include a brief interview with Jane Wenham, who plays (too poshly, for my taste) the unfortunate Eva Smith.