Gibralter Films, Ltd., 1956. Directed by
Lance Comfort. Camera: Stanley Pavey. With Derek Farr,
Ella Raines, Donald Wolfit, Lisa Daniely, Bruce Beeby, Russell Napier, Cyril
Cusack, Frederick Piper, Karel Stepanek, Alfred Maron, John Welsh, Olive
Sloane, Jim O'Brady.
After an introductory scene in which a car
is waylaid on a narrow English country lane, a corpse substituted for
the driver and the car doused with gasoline and set on fire, a man
(Derek Farr) wakes up in a private hospital.
His amiable but vaguely sinister attending physician, Professor Cattrell
(Donald Wolfit) tells the man that he was the victim of a hit-and-run
accident, and his name—
according to the wallet found in his suit—is
Ivan Mason. There's just one problem: Mason can't remember
his past. Or rather, what he does remember doesn't jibe with who
they tell him he is, and every time he has one of these "false" memories
he gets a blinding headache. Mason slowly begins to suspect
there's something not quite right going on, even as Cattrell confronts
him with all sorts of evidence that he really is Mason.
Both the amnesia and the headaches are the results of Cattrell's
hypnosis, as part of a devious Commie plot to get Mason—in
actuality a top nuclear physicist—to
voluntarily go to Russia. Where, of course, his amnesia will be "cured"
and all his nuclear secrets extracted.
Although when you think about it, the plan seems both cumbersome and
far-fetched, the players make it look fairly convincing. One of
the great things about these British B films is the level of acting
talent they could draw on for supporting characters, actors like Wolfit
and Cyril Cusack and Karel Stepanek. Sure, the leading man is
rather wooden, but strikingly beautiful Ella Raines (in what was, sadly,
her last big-screen appearance) more than compensates for Farr's
Stanley Pavey's black-and-white cinematography is crisply competent,
with plenty of shadows and low angle shots to instill an appropriately
This is a distinctly minor thriller, compared to the likes of "The
Spy Who Came in from the Cold," but still, it has its moments, and
(mostly) manages to hold the viewer's interest until the end.